Understanding your situation and its potential


_SWOT blog icon copyWelcome to our ‘tool of the month’ for March.

Each month we are looking at a different tool to make our collaborations more inspirational and effective. Each tool is designed to increase participation, and to build better outcomes with greater ownership for making them happen. Each is easy to set-up and use, totally free, and can make a big difference to the feel and engagement of your meetings.

Our hope is that you will make a pledge to yourself to find an excuse to try out each tool of the month and see its potential in the difference it makes to your team and its outcomes.This month we are looking at SWOT analysis.

You may be familiar with the idea of SWOT analysis in terms of business strategy, but it also has a great deal to offer a whole range of other situations: Team formation; project review; problem situations; new product design; teamwork; career planning – and its simple structure lends itself to encouraging full participation of your team from the outset.

SWOT is an acronym for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats – four perspectives which provide insight into the full truth of where you are and what you can do about it:

  • Strengths you can build upon and utilise
  • Weaknesses that may need to be addressed or avoided
  • Opportunities that may be seen in current or future developments
  • Threats which could undermine what you are seeking to do

Teams are at their strongest when they have a comprehensive, accurate and shared understanding of these four things, and at their weakest when that understanding is partial, flawed or conflicting.

SWOT analysis is a great activity not only to ensure the former, but also to build relationships and ownership for whatever emerges. It is clearly best conducted at the start of a project or piece of work, but can be conducted whenever the team recognise that their understanding may be incomplete, incorrect or incompatible. Furthermore, it can be conducted on the whole situation or any particular part of it.

The tool is very simple. The following question is asked four times, each time with a different option for strengths/weaknesses/opportunity/threats:

What do we see as our strengths/weaknesses/opportunity/threats in achieving (whatever it is we are setting out to achieve)?

In a physical environment, this can be done with four flipcharts labeled strengths, weaknesses, opportunity and threats, with participants sticking up their answers on sticky-notes.

In a virtual environment, it can be done using a simple SWOT template (see below) and inviting people to type their answers directly into it.

SWOT_iFrame_Template

Initially, sticking up answers is best done altogether without discussion.

Once the content is in place, the team can clarify answers they don’t understand, group them, debate them, prioritise them, and decide what they plan to do about them. As a result, the way forward can make better use of strengths and opportunities, and better handle emerging threats and weaknesses.

Furthermore, in reconciling their perspectives, people begin to see new possibilities and this can energise and inspire the group to move forward.

If you wish to augment the question, the clinic article on SWOT analysis includes more detailed questions to be asked of each area. You can also find further articles on SWOT, and templates that you can easily download and use on your virtual whiteboard.

If you would like to see the SWOT analysis in use in a virtual environment, and understand how you can replicate this yourself, please join us in one of our free training webinars.