How to Get the Most Out of Your SWOT Analysis

The world is full of uncertainties. From plane delays to sick days, you can never know exactly what will happen, and there are no exceptions for business and organizations.

If you are the leader of a team or organization, you know exactly how threatening it can be when dealing with the unknown. It is important that company leaders are prepared to handle unexpected situations, but how can you prepare yourself if you are unsure of what’s going to happen?

Most leaders start with a typical SWOT Analysis. A SWOT Analysis simply means that you analyze the strengths and weaknesses of your company and the opportunities and threats from the external environment. Listing out strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, however, does little to actually taking action and preparing the company for potential situations.

To get the most out of your SWOT Analysis, you should consider performing it backwards. Instead of addressing the strengths and weaknesses in your team or organization first, you need to know the context that you are dealing with. Therefore, before anything else, you need to consider the threats and opportunities that are facing your organization.

Threats are situations that can have negative impacts on the productivity or structure of your team or organization. They often come from the external environment, so you typically have little control over whether they will actually take place. Threats include new laws or limitations, new patents to similar items that you sell, competition, or negative economic trends that have implications for your consumers. On the other hand, opportunities are potential situations that can have a positive impact on your organization if they take place. Opportunities include positive economic trends, a new product or product line that is relevant to your company, or even the new use of a marketing tool to increase business awareness.

One you understand the threats and opportunities facing your team or organization, you have a clearer idea about the context in which you are working. You better understand your external environment and possible scenarios that may take place. It is beneficial to expand on this knowledge and consider the chances of these threats or opportunities occurring within the next two or five years so that you know which issues are pressing and should be addressed first.

With this context of your environment and the possible threats and opportunities, you are better able to examine the strengths and weaknesses within your organization. More importantly, you can consider the specific strengths and weaknesses that are relevant to the threats and opportunities that you previously determined.

Strengths are areas of your organization that you do well, while weaknesses are areas that need improvement. With this in mind, you can determine what strengths your organization has that enables your organization to address a specific threat if it were to occur. Perhaps your organization has a lot of financial resources and connections that can be used if you need to create a better product when competition arises. Furthermore, you can examine the weaknesses of your organization that might prevent you from handling a threat appropriately. The areas of weakness that pertain to threats have the opportunity to seriously damage your team or organization. But once you determine your threats and the weaknesses related to them, you have a clear direction in which you can go to reduce the threat and perhaps even turn it into an opportunity.

You should also determine your strengths and weaknesses in the context of the opportunities. This is because opportunities can help your business grow and improve your team. When you know your strengths, you know how you can capitalize on the opportunities to get the most out of them. In addition, when you examine the weaknesses related to opportunities, you know which areas you can address that can turn opportunities into growth.

When you conduct a SWOT Analysis backwards, you reap more rewards and benefits. You have a clear direction and know what needs to be taken care of first. Doing this can help to prevent threats from taking down your team and organization, while getting the most out of potential opportunities.