What follows is not a conceptual treatise on what a SWOT analysis is. It is rather a brief guide to assist the Manager in empowering people by encouraging them to look at themselves afresh through the tool of self SWOT.
Every manager knows what a SWOT analysis is (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats). Every company does a regular SWOT analysis to better understand where they stand. Even countries and cities do it.
How about the use of SWOT on a much smaller level? How many organisations use self-SWOT as a productivity tool? How many of us look at self-SWOT as an efficiency and empowerment process? Teaching personnel how to do self-SWOT not only encourages them to utilise their strengths better, but also encourages them to overcome their weaknesses in order to respond more effectively to both opportunities and threats.
I have found in the course of my years as a management consultant that company- or department-wide teaching and implementation of the concept of self-SWOT leads to higher levels of empowerment and a consequent improvement in overall business processes.
How a manager goes about inculcating the concept of self-SWOT will depend on his management style and the organisation culture. Presented below are a few simple guidelines for explaining the process that may make this task easier. These may appear to be very basic, but I have found that in the cases of apparently simple concepts, it is the basics that are often overlooked.
Explain to the staff that:
SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. To do a SWOT analysis means to examine a problem, a situation or yourself in the light of these four parameters.
The object of a SWOT analysis is to understand your position in relation to an issue you are confronted with.
Before a SWOT analysis can be done, it is essential that a complete understanding of the issue/problem being addressed is obtained. Without a thorough understanding of all the issues involved, a person will not know what strengths he may need, what weaknesses to guard against, where to look for opportunities and what threats to guard against.
An essential ingredient to a successful SWOT analysis is objectivity. A prejudiced or emotional analysis may cause strengths to be over emphasised, weaknesses to be underestimated, opportunities to be imagined and threats to be ignored.
A SWOT analysis done without total objectivity is worse than not doing the analysis as this could lead to situations where unexpected issues appear that have to be managed with imagined abilities. In the case of self SWOT, a simple solution to this problem is to form self SWOT peer groups of 4 or 5 people who are known to have respect for each other. These groups will support each person’s self SWOT efforts and the inputs of colleagues will allow for more objectivity.
A SWOT analysis is not a guarantee of success. What it does is to allow for the realistic appreciation of a situation or problem, the marshalling of resources to deal with it, the maximisation of the benefits that may accrue from a successful resolution and the chance to guard against possible dangers.
What is Self Swot?
Self SWOT is basically raising the level of self understanding and self appreciation. It is understanding one’s strengths and weaknesses when evaluating how a situation is to be dealt with. It means focusing one’s strengths towards a resolution of the problem while at the same time protecting oneself from one’s weaknesses which may adversely affect the outcome. It means understanding the problem in detail and in the context in which it exists so that opportunities for not just solving the problem but perhaps for longer term benefits may be recognized and taken advantage of. It means not just appreciating the possible threats but allowing for the unexpected and knowing that these may have to be dealt with.
STRENGTHS. Strengths do not mean just the obvious job skills a person has. Strength, in this context means the resources a person has to deal with a situation. These could be things like knowledge gained through a hobby, tactics absorbed from sports, family background, a sense of humour and so on. Developing a list of ones’ strengths is a time consuming process as inherent capabilities may not be recognised as strengths until specific situation brings them to the fore. Similarly, strengths in dealing with one situation may not be so when faced with other issues. For example, a tightly focussed approach to a problem may be a strength when working on an isolated problem, but may be a weakness when working larger or more complex issues.
WEAKNESSES. These may appear to be easier to identify but it takes far more objectivity. For example, sympathy towards the problems others face is a good human characteristic, but in excess it may cause problems in leading a team. As in the case of STRENGTHS, it is essential to be aware of all your weaknesses while dealing with an issue and also to know which weaknesses are relevant to a particular circumstance.
OPPORTUNITIES. It is essential to examine a problem in not only its entirety but also in a wider context to be able to appreciate opportunities that may exist. A simple example is that of a production manager who has to reduce production and lay off workers due to a fall in demand for the company’s products. This is a problem. However, if he is aware of what in happening in his industry and the economy, he can use this as an opportunity to streamline operations and prepare for product enhancements the market will require in the future.
THREATS. Every situation has its threats. It is for the individual to recognise and gather his strengths to deal with these. Likely threats are easy to identify, but differentiating between the “impossible” and the “unlikely” may be difficult. It is the “unlikely” that often turns around to bite you! More than the obvious threats, it is the unexpected ones that pose the greatest danger. An awareness of the fact that the unexpected may suddenly occur and a pre-existing knowledge of one’s strengths allow for most effective response to these situations.
It is essential to emphasize to people that doing a self SWOT is not a competency or ability evaluation. It is more like baring oneself to a psychiatrist with the difference being that the patient and the doctor are one and the same. This should make honesty in the evaluation process easier since total confidentiality is assured. Self SWOT is basically a bridge between appearance and reality.
Self SWOT is:
A tool to help a person deal with problems and issues that affect him.
A technique that allows for a greater understanding of one’s abilities and areas of weakness and for being honest and objective about these.
A detailed understanding of a situation and the problems inherent in it along with knowledge of the resources available to deal with it.
Knowing what you are trying to achieve.
Being aware of the dangers in the course of action you plan to undertake.
Not a plan of action.
Not a system of metrics for measuring your success.
Not just a management process or system that is part of an MBA education.
SELF SWOT, if done with honesty and objectivity, can provide a very effective and efficient way to deal with a situation, problem or issue facing the individual as is illustrated in the following matrix.
- Take action -
- Gather Additional Data/Resources -
Take Defensive Position
- Observe Developments / Work On Weaknesses -
- Minimise Negative Impact -
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