20 May What are the Blind Spots of a SWOT Analysis?
SWOT analysis is standard practice because it’s neat, organized, and intuitive. And even when we aren’t literally itemizing strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, we usually keep mental track of these factors in planning any venture. Whether formal or informal, SWOT analyses are only as good as their inputs. If your SWOT analysis is fed inaccurate or incomplete inputs, it will fail as a decision-making tool.
All too often, an organization’s view of the current situation is closed off from two important sources of information: your staff and your customers. You might believe that you can accurately gauge your staff’s thoughts on a particular policy. You might imagine what your customers think about a certain service. Believing and imagining are far from knowing.
The fact is, SWOT analyses are themselves just one cell in a bigger matrix, one that reveals a path to true Reality-Optimized Strategy.
|Top-Down Direction||Collaborative Direction|
|Imagining how your customers see you||SWOT Analysis||
|Knowing how your customers see you||
Missed Opportunities and
As you can see, SWOT is inherently limited by its inputs; it takes customer attitudes for granted and fails to leverage the full institutional knowledge-base of your organization. Fair or not, your customers’ old impressions of you are meaningful. Just because you’ve made recent policies improving a facet of your business doesn’t guarantee that they will forgive past experiences. Likewise, taking a top-down approach to planning while neglecting the actual behaviors of your front-line organization leads to delusional expectations of what is and isn’t possible. If you fail to get your staff involved at the planning stages of a strategy, don’t be surprised when they aren’t on board for its execution.
SWOT analyses cannot account for the attitudes of your customers and workers, which leaves you with a giant blind spot when you’re trying to navigate your business. The old method of receiving feedback is simply to let numbers do the talking. If sales are up, it’s because customers are happy with you. If productivity is down, your workforce is dissatisfied. These are necessary statistics, but of middling use when making comprehensive strategies for the future.
This is where an effective communications strategy pays dividends. Attempting to impose a brand through one-way communication doesn’t address how well that brand actually fits with reality. What you need are unfiltered opinions and beliefs about your organization, both good and bad. You might find out that something you believed to be an organizational Strength is actually not that important to customers. You may discover opportunity in a policy developed by a single worker in a single division that could be applied to the entire organization. Trust your customers and your staff to keep you grounded in reality.
To achieve an effective two-way communication strategy, you may need to employ web content, mobile apps, video, or a combination of the three. Ultimately, every audience is different, and the motivators that get them to express their honest opinions are unique as well.