Periodically, all business owners should conduct a SWOT analysis of their enterprise. This is an identification of the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats that relate to your organization. One of the main reasons for doing this is that it gives you clear goals to work on to improve your commercial future. But how do you go about doing it?
There is no "set" way to undertake a SWOT analysis. Here are some suggestions to get you going.
Set aside time to do it . I think it is important that the key people in your enterprise focus on this issue at a set time. This will highlight its importance and enable you to make best use of your time. It is best done away from your normal place of work, phones and e-mail.
Have someone facilitate the process . Someone (who knows what they're doing) should guide your people through the process. Without structure, the process of analyzing your business will become a time-consuming talk-fest that will probably achieve little and frustrate a lot. The person facilitating the process should be skilled at drawing out people's opinions and making sure that everyone has ample opportunity to express their views. If you can afford it, I recommend that you get someone external to your business. A person who is facilitating the process from within the business may have their own agenda or may get spoken up in the politics of the organization. Also, they may not have the skills I have just mentioned.
Start with a "secret" process . Often the SWOT analysis process commences with a group of people sitting near a whiteboard or flipchart paper and letting the ideas fly. There is nothing wrong with this, but I prefer that each participant in the process wrists down their thoughts about the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats prior to the discussions starting. The reason that I favor comming with a secret process is that you are more likely to get honest views that are not influenced by dominant personalities in a group or pet agendas. You could use a stack of system cards where each idea is written on one card by each person. These cards can then be put in piles of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. You might like to use different colored cards for each of the four categories.
Discuss the "secret" contributions . Once you have gone through the "secret" process described above, the facilitator should then permit open discussions about the ideas. But, prior to those discussions starting, there should be some sort of the cards into ideals. The facilitator should check with the participants that the groupings are indeed the same idea. Otherwise this might override someone's valuable opinion. The discussion should be free-flowing, informal but professional and respectful of all opinions. It is the job of the facilitator to keep the discussions on track.
Categorize the points into a small number of important issues . Following the discussions, the ideas for each part of the analysis should be distilled into a short list of important issues. As a general business principle, I am very much in favor of keeping things simple. If you finish up with 45 different points in your SWOT analysis, you will have too many. Try to aim for about three points for the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (about 12 – 15 in total).
Once you have done all this, you will have your SWOT analysis finished. Now you must act on what you have discussed.
Wishing you easier business.