My experience with SWOT
SWOT has been used as a strategic analysis tool in almost every industry since the 1960s. It cannot be otherwise than that SWOT is a very strong tool, at least that is my experience.
- In your daily work you sometimes lose sight of the overview.
- How are we doing?
- Where are our competitors?
- Where are our opportunities?
- How do we seize those opportunities?
SWOT gives you the opportunity to analyze a complex situation in a relatively short time. By comparing internal and external factors, you get a fairly general analysis.
Often a SWOT also contributes to the unity and cooperation of a team of employees. It also provides input for follow-up steps such as a business plan, a marketing plan or a new product-market concept.
A SWOT works well when it comes to analysis. If it concerns the follow-up steps such as objectives and an action plan, a SWOT does not sufficiently provide for this.
By taking a number of extra steps after the SWOT analysis, you arrive at a global list of points for attention, often with pain and effort. Not only does this cost a lot of extra time, it also comes at the expense of the energy and focus of a team. It often ends with a low energy level. A kind of night candle that slowly goes out.
It therefore requires a lot of attention and skill as a supervisor to successfully complete a SWOT. Discussed below is one of the factors why a SWOT is sometimes tricky.
Why is the end result of the strategic analysis normally unsatisfactory?
Zooming in on weaknesses
After the strengths are identified, the next step in a SWOT is to identify weaknesses. Naming weaknesses, no matter how necessary, often takes the energy out of a team. The atmosphere after searching for your strengths drops because weaknesses let a team see what goes wrong and what can’t be done. And there are always team members who go wild on the weaknesses of an organization.
What makes it difficult and inconvenient to identify weaknesses?
- They are often generalities that everyone already knows.
- It produces negative energy, which affects the rest of the SWOT.
- You can’t do much with it in that phase of the analysis.
Weaknesses are often the opposite of strengths. “Maneuverability” is a strength often associated with smaller organizations. “Small market participant” is a weakness, which offers more limited opportunities compared to capital-rich companies. They’re open doors that don’t really help you.
This general vagueness are missing in SWOT 2.0 (Focus, Potential, Goals, Obstacles and Action).
Expressing a sharper focus in advance and communicating this well with a team helps enormously. Just like determining weaknesses after you have set concrete objectives. And then immediately include it in your action plan. That gives you extra energy: you can do something with it the next day.
End a SWOT with threats
After the internal factors, strengths and weaknesses have been listed, the external factors are examined.
Opportunities quickly generate a lot of energy. Then the other external SWOT factor, threats, causes the energy to sink far away. Because a SWOT ends with looking for threats, it is difficult to end the session in a positive and enthusiastic atmosphere.
Why are threats so inconvenient in a SWOT analysis?
- On the one hand, it is in the meaning of the word “threat”. The word has a negative connotation, which affects the energy level of the team.
- On the other hand, a team has already put a lot of effort into the first 3 factors, fatigue will also play a role in the last step.
- In addition, the search for threats is not a positive activity as a closing. It’s a closure that doesn’t inspire a team, but rather demotivates it.
Because of these factors, a SWOT analysis often does not become the success you want to achieve. Just a general analysis that adds very little to achieving success in entrepreneurship.
You can fix the drop in energy level by just briefly dwelling on threats. To then make the team enthusiastic again by combining internal and external factors. This can sometimes be achieved with a lot of effort, although as a supervisor you have to feel it well.
Threats are also often generalities. Or matters that are beyond the control of a team, organization or project. At most you can take them into account, you cannot influence them or only indirectly.
Something that cannot be influenced demotivates. The question is how specific these threats are to the subject of the analysis (which is often vague in a SWOT).
- Does it make sense to tackle those threats?
- Are the threats relevant enough?
- Do threats like ‘heavy competition’ and ‘economic downturn’ make sense?
- Then just do nothing and wait?
In SWOT 2.0, weaknesses and threats are also presented in the form of obstacles. But at a different point in the process and in a way that a team can do something with it. After determining concrete objectives, you start looking at which threats and weaknesses can influence them. Together with a Risk assessment, you know which obstacles you should include in your action plan.
How SWOT 2.0 works
The SWOT 2.0 process consists of 5 steps (Focus, Potential, Goals, Obstacles, Action Plan).
More information can be found here about SWOT 2.0:
The first step (Focus) provides a precise topic that the session deals with.
The opportunities and strengths are input for the objectives. Obstacles, which can hinder implementation, are input that is necessary for the preparation of a thorough and concrete action plan.
What are obstacles?
- Obstacles are the weaknesses and threats that:
- Relating to the delineation in the first step (Focus)
- Getting in the way of achieving the set goals
- Can be directly converted into actions
In SWOT 2.0, obstacles are the weaknesses and threats that apply very specifically to the goals defined in the step before. In the action plan, the step immediately after, something can be done about the identified obstacles immediately. That gives positive energy.
The questions are then:
- What should I do to tackle, neutralize and/or resolve obstacles?
- How can we best tackle this?
- Which obstacles require extra attention?
The result of the step in which obstacles are identified is a list of concrete points of attention that can be addressed immediately. This also includes a short Risk Analysis.
Obstacles provide positive energy
As stated earlier, weaknesses and threats do not give energy as part of the SWOT analysis.
Obstacles in SWOT 2.0 do provide energy:
- It only concerns obstacles that stand in the way of achieving the goals.
- Obstacles form the input for an action plan and are tackled immediately.
- Obstacles are aimed at the subject (Focus), this prevents general points that are not relevant.
A brief risk assessment of the obstacles is very useful in the next step (action plan). Obstacles challenge a team and they can go straight to work the next day. This is realistic because the preparation of the action plan is tackled in the next step.
What are the differences?
The differences between SWOT 2.0 and the SWOT analysis are summarized point by point in terms of weaknesses and threats.
SWOT versus SWOT 2.0
The table above shows the differences between SWOT 2.0 and the long-established SWOT analysis in terms of weaknesses and threats. There are more relevant differences. I go into that in two eBooks.
The main difference is that where SWOT only provides an analysis, SWOT 2.0, in addition to an analysis, provides targeted goals and a concrete action plan. I have converted my personal experience in supervising the SWOT sessions into an approach that retains the power of the SWOT analysis. In addition to the analysis, SWOT 2.0 also provides objectives and an action plan. And that while a SWOT 2.0 session takes just as much time as a SWOT. You can use SWOT 2.0 absolutely free.