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Monday, 26 September 2011

SWOT Analysis - Brainstorming Ideas

Click to see full size image - opens in a new window In previous posts on the subject of SWOT analysis, the initial steps in the process have been identified as:

  • Define the goal or objective
  • Brainstorm and review strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) in the context of the objective.

The key consideration before starting the analysis is to establish and agree the focus, whether you are working on your own or with a group in a meeting or workshop. Before any idea generation, determine what is the objective to be analysed and which feature(s) of the organisation, product or individual are to be examined in a given work session.  In facilitation terms, we talk about identifying the focus question.

For a SWOT analysis this focus question will include reference to the objective and define the scope or context further, such as:

  • Given our objective, what is it about the situation of our organisation/products/staff that needs to be addressed by strategy.

An example of this is:

 SWOT - Objective image

Use this focus throughout the SWOT analysis - keep coming back to the objective - there may be many internal and external factors that might be considered but not all will be relevant to achieving the objective.

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Stay within the context of the analysis. For a given session, it might be decided to focus only on selected capabilities, resources, performance or assets. This might be driven by the need to define strategy for a given market or product or for operational improvements. The focus might be on people, processes or technology. Agree what this focus needs to be and then work with it.

It is also useful to think of a next level of focus questions to help with the idea generation and to help control the analysis session.

If you are using MindGenius to undertake the SWOT analysis, you can use the 'Question Set' feature to define the questions and to use the question set to help drive the initial idea generation and analysis. This can help:

  • Maintain the focus
  • Break the idea generation and analysis into more manageable chunks
  • Stimulate ideas
  • Sequence or group the ideas.

A very simple question set created in MindGenius looks like this:

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The questions set may be used with the normal map creation/editing mode or with brainstorm mode.

In brainstorm mode, open the relevant question set, select each question in turn and add the ideas.

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Each idea can be linked to the question it relates to - in this example it is useful to know whether an idea is a strength, weakness, opportunity or threat, for instance. If ideas come up that relate to questions reviewed previously, then move back to the relevant question, select it and then add the idea. However this is not critical as the ideas will be reviewed again later.

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When complete, create a map from the brainstorm, selecting the option to create a 'Question-Centric Map'.

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Use this new map to review the ideas generated thus far, expand on ideas or to add new ones.

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Change the layout, amend the formatting, add notes and categories - whatever helps the review and refines the output.

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More sophisticated question sets will provide further focus, segmentation and depth. Take a look at the default question set for SWOT analysis to see an example.

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imageThe images and slides used in this post were created using MindGenius.  If you would like to know more about MindGenius, do visit the web site and try the product free for 30 days.

Should you decide to buy MindGenius, Peace of Mind Blog can offer a 10% discount.  Just use the discount code at the checkout on the MindGenius web site or quote the code in any correspondence with MindGenius.

To claim the 10% discount please use the code:  MGELST

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

SWOT Analysis - Getting from Ideas to Action

In the last post - SWOT Analysis - So what? - I introduced the SWOT analysis tool and how it may be applied to the development of strategy and action plans.

SWOT simple

The approach to using the tool might be summarised into 5 steps:

  1. Define the goal or objective
  2. Brainstorm and review strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) in the context of the objective
  3. Review the SWOT and brainstorm strategies or high level actions to address each idea
  4. Review each strategy or high level action, identify detailed actions to implement
  5. Schedule the actions to complete the action plan.

Mapping software is ideal for this kind of planning and I'll take you through the 5 steps using MindGenius to illustrate one possible approach.

Having defined an objective, next complete the brainstorm of the SWOT attributes.

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Capture high level strategies for action against each SWOT idea.

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Using the 'Analyze' function of MindGenius, assign categories to each of the elements of the map: SWOT template; the brainstormed SWOT ideas; the high level strategies or actions.  Filter the map to leave only the high level strategies or actions visible. Export these to a new map using the 'Create Category Map' function.Click to see full size image - opens in a new window

This gives a simple map listing only the high level strategies or actions.

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This may be reviewed, refined and restructured or taken as is. Taking each strategy, add detailed actions to the map.

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Next, schedule the detailed actions - actions with dates (and owners and resources) become more real.

In MindGenius, switch to the Gantt view. Schedule the actions, create dependencies, set durations and assign resources.

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The resulting action plan may be managed using MindGenius or it can be exported to MS Project. The action plan may be refined further, more detail added and so on.

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This simple example demonstrates what a simple yet powerful tool SWOT analysis is. The critical, creative part is the generation, review and evaluation of ideas and actions. Depending on the purpose of the exercise, the context (large or small company, for instance) and the level of governance needed, include in your plans time/effort for consultation, review and approval as well as for a number of iterations.

This example also illustrates how a mapping tool such as MindGenius can help you with each step of the process, creating strong visual documentation as you go.

In the next post I'll show how MindGenius can help with the initial brainstorming by the use of "Question Sets".

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imageThe images and slides used in this post were created using MindGenius.  If you would like to know more about MindGenius, do visit the web site and try the product free for 30 days.

Should you decide to buy MindGenius, Peace of Mind Blog can offer a 10% discount.  Just use the discount code at the checkout on the MindGenius web site or quote the code in any correspondence with MindGenius.

To claim the 10% discount please use the code:  MGELST

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SWOT Analysis - So what?

SWOT analysis is a useful tool for the development and evaluation of strategy and action plans. The acronym - SWOT - stands for: Strengths; Weaknesses; Opportunities; Threats.
SWOT simple
The analysis is usually applied within a specific context, from the viewpoint of; an organisation or company; a product; a project; an individual. The time to use it is when a goal or objective has been set and you are defining the strategy or plan to achieve it.
Analysis of an organisation, project or individual might be interesting but to derive meaningful strategy a clear focus is needed. This is provided by a goal or objective, such as to expand the company, enter a new market, implement major changes or to gain promotion to the top level. With the context and goal as the focus, the analysis then considers:
  • What will help to achieve the goal
  • What will impede progress
  • What can be taken advantage of
  • What must be overcome.
The definitions of each element of SWOT are simple:
  • Strengths: positive advantages to the organisation, thing or person; internal factors that are within your control
  • Weaknesses: internal factors that will hinder the achievement of the goal and that are within your ability to influence
  • Opportunities: external factors, relevant to the achievement of the goal - providing motivation or an advantage, consider when these opportunities may be present and for how long
  • Threats: external factors, outside of your control which present risk to the achievement of the goal, identify their likelihood and possible impact.
From this, you can see that SWOT provides more than just a one dimensional analysis, it helps identify:
  • Positives and negatives that will impact achievement of the goal
  • Internal and external - within your control or not
  • Time frames - now and the future.
SWOT matrix SWOT analysis provides a model for you to consider these dimensions together, as illustrated by the figure above.
The key thing to get across is that the analysis - listing the factors against each of the SWOT elements - is only part of the process.
SWOT - Objective Improve operational efficiency and effectiveness whilst reducing risk of process failures 2a Once you have done this first step, you will be ready to ask yourself, “Ok, I've made some lists - I sort of knew most of this already.  But what do I do next to get some real value from this - how do I formulate a plan or strategy?”
The next step is to take the ideas and create an action plan or strategy:
  • Review the ideas captured - what strategies come to mind?
  • Maintain or build on strengths
  • Weaknesses to be fixed, changed or stopped
  • Opportunities to be grasped, when and how
  • Contingencies to overcome or mitigate threats
  • Review the actions - create one or more plans with timeframes
  • Review the plan(s) and evaluate alternatives
  • Ask the question, "How well does this help with achievement of the goal?"
  • Select the preferred strategy, assign ownership and start to act.
SWOT - Objective Improve operational efficiency and effectiveness whilst reducing risk of process failures 2b As always, click on the images to see full size.
In the next few posts I'll show how aspects of SWOT analysis and planning can be achieved in practice.
______________________
imageThe images and slides used in this post were created using MindGenius.  If you would like to know more about MindGenius, do visit the web site and try the product free for 30 days.
Should you decide to buy MindGenius, Peace of Mind Blog can offer a 10% discount.  Just use the discount code at the checkout on the MindGenius web site or quote the code in any correspondence with MindGenius.
To claim the 10% discount please use the code:  MGELST
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