It is always worthwhile maintaining a SWOT analysis of your business’s Strengths (S), Weaknesses (W), Opportunities (O) and Threats (T) that may impact it. This is a simple, effective, proven and practical tool to provide clarity and gain an insight into where the business is and what options may exist in the future.
Many leaders and managers will be familiar with and have completed a SWOT in the past, however this needs to be reviewed regularly, particularly after a significant internal or external change to the business such as the Coronavirus pandemic.
The SWOT is undertaken by identifying and writing short summary statements as bullet points in each of the four quadrants of the following matrix. To aid the value of this analysis, these statements should be high-level (rather than too detailed) and factual (not opinions), evidence-based and specific. There are a few things to remember in doing this analysis:
The strengths and weaknesses are internal to your business and can be proactively managed as they should mostly be within your control. Strengths and weaknesses should be considered relative to your competitors e.g. if you use a particular piece of equipment that is standard throughout your sector then it is probably not a specific strength for your business unless used in a novel way that gives your business a competitive advantage.
Theopportunities and threats are external to your business and will mostly be outside of your control and more difficult to manage. Most likely these will have to be managed reactively.
Strengths and opportunities should be helpful to your business while weaknesses and threats are harmful and need to be minimised, mitigated or turned around to support growth opportunities. As well as gaining clarity on the current position of your business and opportunities for the future, a SWOT enables a leader or manager to reflect and challenge their thinking, ensuring it is realistic. This covers the first and most well-known part of a SWOT analysis, a second part is typically used to expand on possible future strategic options, activities and actions, providing a foundation to feed into strategic planning.
This article originally appeared in the 2021 Oxford Innovation Business Resource Manual. This 60-page resource, full of articles covering leadership, crisis management, marketing, strategy and more, is available in full to all Oxford Innovation Cornwall clients.
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