Use a simple SWOT Analysis template to find the big issues for your organization.
Strategic planning addresses the most important issues for your organization.
A SWOT analysis chart template helps to guide data gathering. It is an aid to planning team discussions on the data. It can aid them towards agreement on the biggest issues facing the organization.
Problems arise when the planning team -
How can the planning team gain a shared view of the way the enterprise functions in its environment? They could use a clear reference model of the organization.
An example of such a framework is the business model canvas. This provides a common language to discuss issues. This language can reduce personalizing of the matters raised. It helps to focus on the issues rather than the people. Unwillingness to face weaknesses can be a lack of trust among planning team members. A SWOT template can aid people to open up about what they think is going on.
The planning team can use the SWOT template in their discussions. It is vital to extend the discussion beyond the planning team. Hold a wider discussion at a SWOT analysis workshop. This should include the -
Before the workshop the participants complete the template on their own. Following this, the managers share their views in small groups. These top three layers of management then meet in small groups to agree an initial set of SWOTs. Then this enlarged group share their findings in a plenary session.
The results of this work go to the strategic planning team. They do further in depth analysis. They then agree a final short list of key strategic issues. They summarize these in the cruciform chart of the SWOT Analysis.
The simplest kind of SWOT template is a two by two, four cell table. Label each cell as in the diagram. I have numbered possible strategic factors or issues one to six in each cell of the table. This does not mean an organization must have six factors in each cell of the matrix. I recommend that the number of items should be less than or no more than six. If a planning team cannot agree to six or less issues in each cell, they have a problem. They are still focusing on operational problems rather than strategic issues.
The SWOT chart may look simple. It contains a lot of meaning.
The top half, Strengths and Weaknesses, shows the internal view of the organization as it is now.
The lower half, Opportunities and Threats, highlights the trends outside the organization. These are likely to affect the organization in the future.
The left hand column shows the positive assets, and environmental trends.
The right hand column shows organizational liabilities and environmental threats.
I now offer examples showing the value of using a SWOT template. The items in each cell of the table are not detailed. I would like you to see the way a planning team can use the template, to reveal patterns of strategic issues.
The numbers of items and their ranking can give a sense of the overall strategic situation of the organization.
These few examples show how useful even this simplest form of SWOT template can be.
Some people add other features to the simple version. Some like ranking the factors in importance to the organization. Others add probability and impact columns for the Opportunities and Threats. These can aid in ranking the various issues.
These methods should not replace management judgement. I recommend that most organizations stick with the simple 2X2 SWOT template. Add features to the basic template when the planning team agrees it would aid their thinking.
Go here for a large collection of SWOT Analysis Templates for many enterprises.
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