There’s not much point in creating a SWOT analysis unless it causes change. If the SWOT analysis just produces a lot of good discussion and then gets put away in a book, it’s not of much value.
You need a system where the SWOT analysis will drive action. That system is the SWOT Action Plan. The SWOT Action Plan is another matrix that looks at where the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats cross each other. At these crossing points,
- Strengths can be used to win Opportunities and reduce Threats
- Opportunities can be used to build new Strengths and bolster Weaknesses
- And more…
The SWOT Action Plan is Critical to Success in strategic change, projects, and career moves.
Move the rank ordered Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats from each quadrant of your SWOT into the headings for the SWOT Action Plan. You may need to rewrite the Post-It Notes so they fit along the sides of the SWOT Action Plan.
Consider what actions you must take inside each quadrant. You want to develop a short list of actions that have a high imperative. A good way to do this is to take Strength #1 and compare it to each Opportunity. Then, take Strength #2 and compare it to each Opportunity. Because this adds up to a lot of questions, only consider comparisons that are highly probable and/or that have high impact.
A good way to do this that insures you’ve considered all the combinations is to create a Post-It Note work area on the wall or paper worksheets like this. If you’re using the large Post-It Notes, then it’s easy to move them between matrices.
Here are some questions to think through when doing your comparisons.
How can we use our strengths to leverage opportunities?
What new strengths will this opportunity give us?
How can our strengths counteract or minimize threats?
What new strengths do we need to build in order to counter these threats?
How can we reduce or eliminate our weaknesses by leveraging these opportunities?
What weaknesses could this opportunity introduce?
How can we reduce our weaknesses when dealing with these threats?
What weaknesses must we strengthen to reduce these threats?
Rank your answers to get the three most important action items in each quadrant. Then, choose the three most important from the entire SWOT Action Plan. These are what you MUST DO!
The SWOT analysis and the SWOT Action Matrix should be debriefed and available to the teams that are implementing the action plans. They need to understand what the drivers and environment are.
Executing Your SWOT Action Plan with the Art of the Quick Win
Your SWOT Action Plan could produce twelve objectives, projects, or action items (three times four quadrants). Although it’s probably been around a long time, I try to use something I call the Rule of Three. It’s rare that people or organizations can “focus” on more than three objectives at one time. It’s true for work and true for home. As a Dad who stayed home to raise his pre-school daughter for a few years I would recommend cutting that Rule of Three in half if you are also taking care of the higher priority – kids. 🙂
An important skill to learn is the Art of the Quick Win. Becoming a Ninja Master in the Art of the Quick Win is a skill that is Critical to Success. You want to pick tasks, projects, and organizational changes that have a high probability of success, that create visible impact, and that will gain you more backing from stakeholders.
Quick Wins meet these qualifications,
- They have a key stakeholder that really wants you to win
- That stakeholder will back you up and present you to higher management when you win
- The project is low to moderate risk
- The project can be finished in a relatively short time frame
- The project has a high impact
- Key personnel on the Quick Win