A SWOT analysis is a strategic planning tool to identify and fix vulnerabilities in your organization. It allows you to review your company’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. Read How Do I Make a SWOT Diagram? to get an overview.
When used properly, the SWOT provides insights about root causes that might be causing negative outcomes. However, it is often treated like a once-and-done process, without any further analysis.
You can get the most out of a basic SWOT Diagram by going deeper, using what I call the Super SWOT.
Watch the video, or read more below:
Why Use a Super SWOT?
You start with a basic SWOT by listing:
- what is going well and how you are achieving strategic goals (Strengths),
- all the things that are not going well and how you are under-performing (Weaknesses),
- ways to improve and grow effectively including PESTEL items (Opportunities), and
- potential areas of loss including PESTEL items (Threats).
The Strengths and Weaknesses are internal forces or outcomes, while Opportunities and Threats are external forces or outcomes.
I recommend that you use data that is:
- quantitative (precise numbers like turnover, A/R, profit margins, number of visits per day and per month) and
- qualitative (experiences, how people interact and respond to you, and objective feedback).
After sketching out the basic components (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats), you can gain even more insight by combining each factor in a matrix pattern. This will allow you to see areas that are working, and those that are not.
A Super SWOT can:
- Provide additional insights for decision-making
- Allow you to see information you hadn’t seen before
- Give you measurable ways to look at your data
Steps to Create Your Super SWOT
The examples below represent a combination of actual clients I’ve helped. We’ll call it the “ABC Health Practice.”
SWOT for ABC Health Practice
Areas where you are doing well and meeting strategic objectives
- S1: Strong client relationships (ability to create strong connections with people; loyal customers)
- S2: New services growth (offering unique services that competitors don’t provide)
- S3: Unique qualifications (practitioner has extensive training and is sought after)
- S4: Low-priced services (while I don’t recommend this, this practitioner charges less than the average rate)
Areas where you are not achieving strategic objectives
- W1: Inefficient processes (lots of wasted time and effort internally; frustrating and confusing)
- W2: Slow A/R (large Accounts Receivable in 90 & 120-day buckets; not charging upfront, insurance denials, not chasing up billing; bad cashflow)
- W3: Unclear value proposition (“What makes my service unique?” and “Why do customers come to me?” It’s not just because you’re nice and fun to be around. What’s the real reason? Consider asking how customers find you, and why they want your help.)
- W4: Negative online ratings (1- or 2- star reviews are disappointing, especially when they’re from an anonymous source; it can be shocking and embarrassing)
Chances to allow your company to have effective strategic growth
- O1: Increasing interest (more people are emailing, calling, visting the website, finding them on social media)
- O2: Virtual visits/telehealth (they started providing consultations across state lines; if you feel comfortable communicating with clients virtually, this could be a great potential area of growth; even for hands-on services, you can still provide high-value consults)
- O3: Podcast & article request (a few of my clients have been asked to join a regular podcast or radio show; great chance to promote what they do and solve problems; writing articles and other content puts you top-of-mind as an expert and resource)
- O4: Niche market (Niching narrows your focus, allows people to find you more easily, doesn’t get distracting, and you can make more money because ideal customers will seek your help rather than going to the dozens of other “everything-to-everyone” practitioners) Read 11 Compelling Reasons to Niche Your Healthcare Practice
Things from the inside and outside of your company that could result in loss or harm
- T1: Negative news reports (shocking and negative news stories that disparage your industry)
- T2: Lower profits (from a decrease in customers’ disposable income, fewer sales, or higher expenses)
- T3: Debt load (a high level of credit card, bank, or other debt)
- T4: Outdated technology (hanging on to old hardware or software, losing potential customers due to an inability to connect via apps and other tech methods)
Here is a summary of the 16 elements mentioned above:
Combining the Quadrants
When we combine each of these areas, here’s what it looks like:
- Strength-Opportunity (SO) Strategies
- Strength-Threat (ST) Strategies
- Weakness-Opportunity (WO) Strategies
- Weakness-Threat (WT) Strategies
If you can only think of 1 or 2 for each category, that’s fine. Consider any hidden benefits or barriers. It may help to ask your staff or best customers. You might consider type out every single combination like this:
- Strength 1 and Opportunity 1: Strong relationships and increasing interest
- Strength 1 and Opportunity 2: Strong relationships and virtual visits
- Strength 1 Opportunity 3: Strong relationships and unique qualifications
Once you examine all cross-overs in each quadrant, you’ll start to see some really interesting patterns. Here are some examples I used in the video, starting with Strengths and Opportunities:
S3: Unique qualifications combined with O3: Podcast & article request
- What a great combo. If you have an unusual background, with great experience and knowledge in a certain area, you can share high-value content through a podcast, articles, or other methods in a way that most of your peers cannot.
S1: Strong client relationships and O2: Virtual visits/telehealth
- If you have a knack for creating strong connections with people and you’re not afraid to try something new, consider serving patients or customers who aren’t in your geographic area. By doing this, you are taking one of your strengths and combining it with an opportunity.
You can see how this works, right? Now let’s match Strengths with Threats:
S4: Low-priced services combined with T3: Debt load
- Right away, we can see this is a major problem. You can’t make more money if you’re charging low prices and not scheduling additional visits. There is only so much time in the day. And as your debt load continues to rise, your heightened frustration could affect how people feel about you.
Let’s look at Weaknesses and Threats next.
W4: Negative online ratings combined with T3: Debt load
- The low-star reviews and negative response could be due to a reaction from your own negative outlook. It is very difficult for us to perceive ourselves objectively; but if you are feeling overwhelmed and financially strapped, an overly aggressive and frenetic energy might be spilling into your customer relationships. You may subconsciously be attempting to “talk people into” buying your service. And they might perceive this negativity and rate you poorly.
Unhappy customers don’t always share negative feedback to your face. This is why I encourage every leader to accept bad news: information that is unpleasant to hear including reviews, experiences, verbal and written feedback.
If you are welcoming uncomfortable feedback, even if it’s painful to hear, there’s a much lower chance that individuals who have a legitimate problem will feel the need to anonymously share a 1-star review.
Finally, let’s look at Weaknesses with Opportunities:
W1: Inefficient processes and O4: Niche market
- If your internal workflow has some leaks, and you’re providing services with very specific value to target customers, this should allow you to isolate root causes of the inefficiency.
- You will also be able to see which few steps can provide the most value to your customers.
The Next Steps
After you’ve singled out some significant areas, here are some other ways to benefit from the Super SWOT:
- Organize your findings in a list form of for easier viewing.
- Decide which tactics are necessary to achieve your strategic goals, and which you want to avoid.
- Create measures (numeric representations of how you know you’re making progress to “move the needle”).
- Set a deadline for each strategy, and review your progress at regular intervals.
To recap, a Super SWOT involves 4 steps:
- List your Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (see my first post for ideas)
- Review the 4 matrix areas: Strength-Opportunity (SO), Strength-Threat (ST), Weakness-Opportunity (WO), and Weakness-Threat (WT)
- Create a list form of each of your new Strategies for easier viewing.
- Select tactics, create measures, and pick a deadline for each.
In the next segment, I’ll be talking about how to turn your SWOT insights into risk-intelligent decisions by using a weighted evaluation system.
Have you ever used a SWOT analysis? Leave a comment below!
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Grace LaConte is a business consultant, writer, workplace equity strategist, and the founder of LaConte Consulting. Her risk management tools are used around the globe, and she has successfully reversed toxic work environments for clients in the healthcare and non-profit fields. Grace specializes in lactation law compliance & policy development, reducing staff turnover after maternity leave, and creating a participatory work culture.