One of the most fundamental tools for strategic market planning is the use of
tool, developed at Stanford University in the late 1960’s, is an extremely
powerful ingredient in the recipe for business success. Used by most Fortune
500 companies in strategic planning, the SWOT matrix involves a frank
evaluation of a business’ Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats:

    •        STRENGTHS: attributes of the organization that are HELPFUL to
    achieving the objective. These are the company’s core competencies, and
    include proprietary technology, skills, resources, market position, patents,
    and others.

    •        WEAKNESSES: attributes of the organization that are HARMFUL to
    achieving the objective. Weaknesses are conditions within the company
    that can lead to poor performance, and can include obsolete equipment,
    no clear strategy, heavy debt burden, poor product or market image, long
    product development cycle, weak management, and others.

    •        OPPORTUNITIES: external conditions that are HELPFUL to
    achieving the objective. Opportunities are outside conditions or
    circumstances that the company could turn to its advantage, and could
    include a specialty niche skill or technology that suddenly realizes a growth
    in broad market interest.

    •        THREATS: external conditions that are HARMFUL to achieving the
    objective.  Threats are current or future conditions in the outside
    environment that may harm the company, and might include population
    shifts, changes in purchasing, serious competitive barriers, changes in
    governmental or environmental regulations, and others.

SWOT analysis provides an efficient way to evaluate the range of factors that
influence your operation, and can give you valuable guidance in making
decisions about what to do next. It also provides a highly productive way to get
your key personnel involved in the management decision-making process.

The exercise of going through the swot analysis matrix can be a great
opportunity to do management team building.  If you have a large team, break
into 4 teams for each of the quadrants and each team can prepare and report its
findings.  Make sure to include not only your market planners, but also finance,
operations, product development and others.

                              Pamela Millar, CEO
                              Bridgemakers Consulting
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