In most cases, strengths and weaknesses are two sides of the same coin. A strength in one situation is a weakness in another, yet often the person can't switch gears. It's a very subtle thing to talk about strengths and weaknesses because almost always they're the same thing. Steve Jobs
I don’t like to do this but I’m coming straight in here with the definition of SWOT analysis from Wikipedia. It explains that SWOT analysis is a strategic planning technique used to help a person or organization identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. It is most often used in relation to business competition or project planning.
This technique is designed for use in the preliminary stages of decision-making processes and can be used as a tool for evaluation of the strategy. It is intended to specify the objectives of the business venture or project and identify the internal and external factors that are favorable and unfavorable to achieving those objectives. Users of a SWOT analysis often ask and answer questions to generate meaningful information for each category to identify their competitive advantage. SWOT has been described as the tried-and-true tool of strategic analysis, but has also been criticized for its limitations.
I want to introduce you to the SWOT system as it’s a very powerful productivity tool that has been in use in the business world since the 1970’s. I’m sure that many of you will have heard of it. But do you use it? By analyzing yourself, your project or your organisation, career etc you will be able to intelligently create informed and actionable plans with which to move forward.
SWOT is an effective method for identifying your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and the threats you may face as you proceed - that’s where the acronym SWOT comes from. It is simply an acronym for; Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats.
In order to classify factors under these four categories you need to ask SWOT analysis questions, but not just any questions. You have to ask GOOD SWOT ANALYSIS QUESTIONS which are all related to the item you are analyzing.
It sounds easy. You just need to list the strengths and weaknesses that you have. You also identify the opportunities and the threats. But what are the things which classify as strengths and weaknesses? What scenarios can be called a threat? Which one is an opportunity for you or your business? To do all these, you need to ask the right SWOT analysis questions and that requires a bit of thought.
S stands for Strengths describe what you excel at and what separate you from the competition: You need to ask the right questions to identify all your strengths. These might include; What are your unique abilities? What is unique about you? What are your 2 strongest skills? What are your assets? Which one of those assets is the strongest? What makes you better than your competitors? Do you have a strong customer base or as a freelancer do you have regular clients? What are the things that other people say you do well? What are the advantages you have over your rivals? These questions and ones like them will help you to build a list of strengths.
W stands for Weaknesses. These are things that will stop you from performing at your optimum level. They are areas where you need to improve to remain competitive, or which are hindering you from moving in the direction you have set out for yourself. SWOT ANALYSIS questions relating to weaknesses could be: What areas do you need improvement on? Are you lacking in knowledge? Are you not skilled enough? Do you have enough money to get what you want? Are you making enough profit? Is your competitor running miles ahead of you? What are the things you need to avoid? What areas do your competitors have an advantage on? I’ll add too that if a competitor knows about your weaknesses, then they are likely to base their strategy on your weaknesses.
O stands for Opportunities. Favorable external factors that could give an you an advantage. These tend to be external factors out with your control, whereas strengths and weaknesses are really internal things that you can control. Questions for this might include: What external changes will bring your opportunities? Can you provide something that is not already on offer? Or that is rarely available? Can you turn your bad luck into good and take advantage of a negative situation. The covid 19 situation has been a bummer for most of us in the industry but I can assure you that others will have benefited from it. Is someone looking for what you are offering? Can you get it to them? Can you talk to them? Can you get it in front of them?
Finally we have T which stands for Threats. These are factors that have could potentially harm you. Just like opportunities, threats are also beyond your control and they are going to prevent you from making the most of your resources. Your strategies will fail due to these. Threats are basically situations that you need to avoid and if you can’t avoid it, you must at least look to minimize their effects. Examples of threats could be: What are the obstacles you are facing in the current mission? What are the negative aspects in the current market? Are there potential competitors who can give you a competition in the future? Do you see a change coming? Are new government regulations going to affect you? Will political instability hurt you? If one of your regular employers goes down, will you be able to pay your bills? Are you working with the wrong people? Do you have negative people in your life? Look back to my episodes on toxic people if you do, getting rid of them will CHANGE YOUR LIFE.
These are just examples but without the right questions, tailored to your specific situation, business or project you could find that you are wasting your time with them. The tougher and more honest questions you can ask, the more reliable SWOT analysis you will do. Don’t be afraid to ask others for help in this. Sometimes when you are standing to close to things you can’t see the wood for the trees. Also, make sure you are clear on what your purpose is with this. Having a clear idea of why you are doing it will make it easier for you to ask the right questions.
Wikipedia lists the limitations and alternatives to the system as follows. SWOT is intended as a starting point for discussion and cannot, in itself, show you how to achieve a competitive advantage, particularly in a rapidly changing environment. Some have critiqued hastily designed SWOT lists and I’d add too something I have discussed on an earlier show. Analysis paralysis - “Analysis paralysis is an anti-pattern, the state of over-analyzing (or overthinking) a situation so that a decision or action is never taken, in effect paralyzing the outcome. “ A person experiencing analysis paralysis gets so lost in the process of analyzing and evaluating the various data needed to make a decision that they become unable to act. To explain this more simply think of the fable about the fox and the cat.
In the story, the two animals discuss how many ways they have to escape their hunters. Fox boasts of having many. Cat, however, admits to having only one.
When the hunters finally arrive, the cat quickly climbs a tree. Fox, on the other hand, begins to analyze all the ways to escape that he knows. But unable to decide which one would be the best, he fails to act and gets caught by the dogs.
So there you have it. With the answers you discover via SWOT analysis you will more easily pinpoint where to improve and where to act. It’s a great way to guide your actions, and put you in touch with the stuff that really matters. SWOT analysis can be done on a project by project basis, and is often done in teams working towards the goals of a business.
Once you have the answers you can define and develop coordinated, goal-directed actions, which underpin your key objectives and give you real direction. Analysis paralysis will occur only when you overthink and under work, so remember well the tale of the cat and the fox, and don’t get too hung up on it.
Thanks for joining me here today and investing in yourself here once again. If you have enjoyed the show I would be incredibly grateful if you would take the time to leave a rating or a review perhaps on whatever app you use to listen to your podcasts on. That’s the one thing that really makes a difference to podcast listener numbers and bumps this show up in the rankings at the same time. I really appreciate your listening whether you are a long time follower of the podcast or this is your first time hearing what I have to say. In the next episode I’ll be talking about why we must get comfortable in being uncomfortable to gain the success we are seeking.
I’ll end now with some words from Aldous Huxley who points out that: Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.
Now take control of your own destiny, keep on shootin’ and join me next time on FILM PRO PRODUCTIVITY AND SUCCESS!
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