This article explains how to do a SWOT analysis, with examples and tips. It is part of the ToolBox for Managers video series of the Waterfall Revenue project which aims to help employees to be promoted at work, and generally to succeed in their professional career and their financial life. .
We will see together what is a SWOT, how to make a SWOT, when to use it, the models to use, the common mistakes, and tips from my experience.
What is a SWOT analysis (or matrix)?
The SWOT matrix is a visual representation of Strengths (S), Weaknesses (W), Opportunities (O), and Threats (T).
It applies to a company, department, area of responsibility, product, project, etc.
When to use a SWOT matrix?
You should know that this is a rather boring exercise because it is a classic corporate presentation that has already been seen and reviewed many times.
What needs to be done is to turn this presentation into an opportunity to communicate intelligently with the hierarchy.
How to present a SWOT?
The easiest way to present a SWOT is to make a powerpoint slide with the matrix. I recommend a rather sober format, with 4 boxes representing Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats.
I recommend to put figures on the elements written in the SWOT analysis.
For threats, you have to look at competition or regulation.
For opportunities, include what can increase the company's revenue, what can reduce costs, or what can improve key performance indicators (KPIs) such as customer service.
If there are many elements in the SWOT analysis, it is possible to use 4 slides, each presenting one of the four boxes of the matrix. But in this case, be careful not make the presentation too long (and boring).
What is also possible to do is to prioritize the item from most important to least important.
The point is that strengths and opportunities are positive, while weaknesses and threats are rather negative.
What I advise during the presentation is to start by talking about the forces, and end up with the opportunities, because in this way you start with something positive, and also end on something positive. In terms of communication, it will help a lot to get the message across.
Strengths and weaknesses are to be found internally of the object studied in the SWOT (thus the service, the area of responsibility or the product).
Opportunities and threats are to be found externally. Knowing that in my example the points are related to internal matters, which is academically not the best, but here we are in business and not in school. So I would say that if you did not find opportunities externally relevant to the presentation, it is better to go looking for them internally rather than not having any at all.
The common mistakes I have seen in my career during SWOT presentations are often with weaknesses. Some people consider this section as a ground for settling scores and will say things that are not very friendly to other colleagues or other services, which does not do a very good job in the top management presentation.
Also I often are colleagues who find weaknesses in their own organization but are not able to explain how they will improve things. So when refer to weaknesses that are in your own area of responsibility, it's better to be able to explain them, and even better, have a plan for improvement.
For threats, what I have seen as a common mistake, is to write down a decision from a director of another department, or even the strategy of the management of the company. It does not do any good, because it shows that the employee is not 100% aligned with the company's strategy. So for the threats, search rather externally, without being negative in relation to other individuals of the organization.
Advice from my experience
You should know that when I was younger, I crossed the Atlantic every quarter to present at my head office the SWOT of my market. And at this presentation assisted the general management, and all the market managers in the world. So much to say that I saw a lot of SWOT, and I have interesting tips to share.
Regarding forces, it is good to have something consistant to include. I once saw someone who did not have anything in this box. He had no strength in his SWOT, and he did not give a very positive image of his work, and that did not demonstrate a great confidence in his organization, or in the product he was presenting.
Regarding weaknesses, it is necessary to use this moment to speak about how you manage the challenges as a manager. To have challenges, problems, is quite normal in the business world. The SWOT exercise is an excellent opportunity to demonstrate: here, I have a challenge, here is what I did or what I am doing to improve this weakness, and presenting that way can make very good effect with the top management.
Regarding at threats, it is the moment to demonstrate your knowledge of the industry, the market, the competitors. Be careful not to put more distant threats in the future, such as artificial intelligence, if they do not already have concrete applications in the environment in which the company operates.
In terms of opportunities, for me this is the most important part because it is the last section that is presented, and this will prefigure the action plan that may be presented just after the SWOT. This is a very good point when you know how to convert the opportunities you present into income for the company. And it's even better if you are already working on these opportunities in order to bring more money back quickly to the business.
Important points for performing a SWOT analysis
The key to remembering when you are asked to do a SWOT in your area of responsibility, you should turn the exercise into an opportunity to communicate positively with your management.
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