Successful Leaders Embrace the SWOT to Increase Their Agility

by | Apr 6, 2020 | leadership, Management | 0 comments

If the recent coronavirus pandemic upended the strategic growth plans of your organization — plans you created in the optimistic environment of an 11-year stock market bull run — you’re not alone. 

And you’re not without resources. 

How well your team or organization maneuvers through shifts in your strategy will depend on your leadership adaptability and agility as you navigate this uncertain climate of rapid change. No matter the effectiveness of your practices before, chances are high that you will need to develop new habits and strategies to survive in the evolving world of work.

As you work with your leadership team to reorient strategies, it is helpful to establish a fault-tolerant (safe-to-fail) experimental mindset for both yourself and your teams.

To pivot effectively, first perform a SWOT analysis to identify your organization’s:

  • Strengths: internal capabilities that you can consistently rely on to bounce back and dominate
  • Weaknesses: internal aspects where your organization is most vulnerable
  • Opportunities: options to better serve your customers or gain a competitive advantage
  • Threats: external concerns with your products and services, or vulnerability to changes in the business climate 

In addition to basic SWOT analysis, I recommend you identify “strength and opportunity” and “weakness and threat” in pairs. Amplifiers and dampeners are actionable from your organization’s vantage point. 

Express Your Strength + Opportunity Pair as Amplifiers

These are capabilities that the organization can deploy or double down on to gain a competitive advantage.

As an example of an amplifier, you may want to leverage your partners in another country to pick up local work to protect market share right now. This could have implications where your supply chain technology backend needs changes to suit new contract formats to match your local partner formats. These changes and many others will become increasingly necessary as localizations become necessary to accommodate for the lack of globalized travel and supply chains that we are so used to.

Express Your Weakness + Threats as Dampeners

These are the vulnerabilities that your organization must defend against. 

For example, a dampener could be to reallocate your budget to minimize spend or to decrease the number of ongoing initiatives. Proactive steps that slow down or ease pressure on weak spots, or build buffers against oncoming threats, are dampening actions. These dampeners can help you fund essential services and/or allocate toward the development of innovative solutions for the radically changed and changing business and social context. 

Threats can help your leadership team change its focus to prioritizing the most important initiatives, leading to less context switching for team members, and therefore providing clarity on objectives and long-term goals. 

Leadership must make small, informed bets (experiments) under constraints of limited organizational capacity. The ability to make tolerable (smaller) write-offs for short timeframes will amplify learning and are increasingly essential to thriving during these turbulent times. Best of luck out there, leaders! 

This article is authored by Dhaval Panchal, and was first published at Sustainable Agility.


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