02-Using SWOT to Slay a Dragon:

First post in series: How to Slay a Dragon

I am sure that most of you are familiar with SWOT analysis. SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. It usually is done in a 4 box grid similar to what you see below. To be honest, most people already do a SWOT analysis of a situation even if it is not structured in a grid. The real secret is to only have around 5 items in each box. Don’t make the list comprehensive – make it significant and impactful. 

The question is what to do next. I like to frame the SWOT analysis within the context of the Why, How, What and “The One Thing” of a business.

I like to develop two SWOT analysis – one from my perspective and one from the perspective of the Dragon. The reason I like to do that is when I look at a problem from my adversary’s position I discover things that are hard to see from my own perspective. 

It comes in very handy with slaying Dragons because it enables me to clearly see where I have an unfair advantage. The other value is as a discussion tool to make sure everyone agrees with the current state of affairs before devising a plan. Remember that SWOTs like Dragon slaying are best done with others. We are always stronger together!

Stack rank the list by importance. You get bonus points for having fewer than 5 items on each list

ACME, LLC.

1. Strengths Most important
2.
3.
4.
5 Least important of 5 but still very important
1. Weaknesses Most important
2.
3.
4.
5.Least important of 5 but still very important
1. Opportunities Most important  
2.
3.
4.
5. Least important of 5 but still very important
1. Threats Most important
2.
3.
4.
5. Least important of 5 but still very important

Dragon, Co.

1. Strengths Most important
2.
3.
4.
5 Least important of 5 but still very important
1. Weaknesses Most important
2.
3.
4.
5.Least important of 5 but still very important
1. Opportunities Most important  
2.
3.
4.
5. Least important of 5 but still very important
1. Threats Most important
2.
3.
4.
5. Least important of 5 but still very important

Next Steps:

Once you have your two SWOT perspectives you will want to get feedback from others to make sure you are not missing anything and that you have your order of importance right.

Then it is time to start figuring out your plan. Brainstorming ideas on what success looks like and how to achieve it. The hard part is you will have a plan that you think is the right one and you will be unenthusiastic about thinking of other ways to achieve your goals. Before you go deep on any plan go wide by thinking of as many plans as you can and the pro/con of each one. You may find out that one of your “crazy/that would never work” plans could actually hold the most potential.

Once you have assessed the merits of each plan pick the one you will go with. Keep in mind that any plan is better than no plan so pick the best one you have and don’t be paralyzed by indecision.

Remember the core Lean Principles: You need a direction for your plans based on some assumptions that you can validate or disprove. Write down for your selected plan all the assumptions that you have made and the things that need to go right for the plan to succeed. That process of stating the assumptions and then devising experiments for them will help you refine your direction until you have a well-tuned strategy that you have high confidence in because you have the data to prove it out. Then execute boldly and assess your progress regularly to make sure you are meeting your success metrics. You do have success metrics right? Check out OKRs that may help with success metrics which I hope to discuss in a future blog post.

One book that is often referenced for building strategies is Good Strategy/Bad Strategy: The Difference and Why It Matters by Richard Rumelt. It is a good book but it is by no means a definitive book on the topic. As with almost everything I talk about in this blog, I recommend you use Lean Methodology to refine your plan and find your market and Agile Processes to work incrementally so you can validate your direction and the success of your plan continuously.

Have you used SWOT or other tools to help you start with a direction for your plan? Please share with us your stories.

Next Up: Why All Lists Should be Stack Ranked

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