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By Glen Chapman  

There are a vast array of processes that help to develop strategies, make decision or test outcomes when planning your business. I want to start to look at working with a SWOT analysis (or a TOWS depending on how you look at it). This process is a very powerful and useful one that can be used in a variety of situation within and outside of your business.

Most people would have come across a SWOT before. It stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. It is designed to be used in the preliminary stages of decision-making and as a precursor to strategic planning. The results from a SWOT should be a set of strategies that address each of these areas in your business.

It allows you to look at the internal (strengths and weaknesses) and external factors (opportunities and threats) that affect your business, product or idea.

The process that we will start to look at is actually the TOWS**. The only difference is the order that you look at each section. Many people say that you should look at the positive parts of your business first (i.e. the Strengths and Opportunities) and then the negatives (Weaknesses and Threats), however I find that this does not really flow and allow for good strategy development.

Step One - The Dream

The first step is to visualise your dream. What is your dream company, department or situation? This gives you the focus for the rest of the analysis. For example you might describe your ultimate business structure and position. Then you can look at the next step.

Step Two - Threats

What are the threats to that dream. Threats are external to your panning environment. If it is your company then they are things in the external environment, in the economy locally and domestically, other competitors or products. If you are looking at a particular department or product, threats may be other parts of the company or peoples attitudes within the company.

Step Three - Opportunities

The objective of this step is turn the threats into opportunities and not let the circumstance dictate the situation. For example if we look at the threat of losing a major customer, by analysing the cause we may be able to develop a competitive advantage in the market place. Also look at other opportunities that you can identify that will help move you towards your goal or dream from step one.

Once you have a list prioritise these. If there are a lot of then then use the 80/20 rule and pick the most important 20% which will result in 80% of the outcome.

Step Four - Strengths and Weaknesses

The next stage is to do an internal audit of your strengths and weaknesses. Look at these to find the best ways to take advantage of the opportunities identified.

An to help with this you can use a force field analysis to help look at each opportunity you have identified. Developed by Kurt Lewin, this analysis allows you to look at the aiding and impeding forces to capitalising on the opportunity.

Figure 1

Opportunity Statement

Strengths aiding progress towards the goal

Weaknesses impeding progress toward the goal

























Figure 1 outlines the template used for the Force Field analysis. For each strength and weakness identified a weighting is applied which helps prioritise them.

Step Five - Strategies and Plans

With the information from the previous steps, you can now develop your strategies to build the strengths and minimise your weaknesses all working towards the development of the identified opportunities.

Final Step - The Dream

Again we come back to the dream. Step back and take a look at your final product. Do the strategies to capitalise on the opportunities move you towards your Dream or Goal? If not then you need to go through the process again. Remember it may be the dream rather then the strategies that needs reviewing Just reality check its feasibility and go through the process again.

(© 1995 – 2007 Glen Chapman)