Previously, I shared a 5-step power tool to help you and other executives finish your year strong. If you didn’t have a chance to see it, click here.
In the article, I mentioned in step 3 that you would want to do a “quick analysis of priorities and projects.” When most executives see this, they immediately think of going through what we call a SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats).
In the world of business, SWOT analysis taught us a lot. But over time, those of us who lead and support leadership in their strategic planning process have recognized that this exercise may do more harm than good.
In fact, there are 3 main reasons why SWOT analysis can actually be counter-productive, and hold your enterprise back from reaching its full potential.
1. You lead with the analysis instead of leading with vision.
Beginning with looking back keeps us from effectively looking forward.
Leading with such an analysis roots the planning in today – reactive mode instead of proactive mode. Instead, if you start by reverse-engineering from your desired future by beginning with the end in mind, then you will step out of current perceptions and into the “what’s possible.”
Stepping into vision first will allow you to leave preconceptions and biases more easily behind, making the mental space for more creativity and innovation.
2. You focus on the weaknesses instead of the opportunities.
This, too, is rooted in past principles of leading by focusing on fixing what’s wrong. Language is powerful, and the very word “weakness” intimates that you must get better, improve, repair.
Instead of locking you and your strategic planning team into that kind of Titanic mindset, begin by reviewing your strengths. Remember first what you do well and the unique value you bring to the marketplace.
In addition, consider that what some call “weakness” may actually be reworded as a partnership opportunity. By reframing the term, we actually reframe the thinking of those involved in the process to more positive possibilities to explore.
3. You put the analysis results on the shelf.
Many enterprises don’t do anything with the information from the analysis they have performed. It sits on a shelf for a while, and then someone suggests doing one again, because the marketplace has changed. And these days, that could be a matter of months.
An unused analysis can be because there was no accountability determined with next steps, or leadership didn’t really have a sound strategic planning process that helped to move the team forward to take action. Or it may be for other reasons. But all limiting scenarios can be overcome with the right process, if you are committed.
The SWOT analysis was a first good beta for answering the question, “How are we doing?”
But there’s a better way to ask…well, better questions. I’ll be sharing that with you in my next article.
Meanwhile, whether you are about to undertake a strategic planning process, or you simply want to do a “spot check” with your team to see how well you are doing, remember to make the experience a motivating and enjoyable one – and then do something with it!
Patti Cotton helps executives optimize their effectiveness in leading self, others, and the enterprise. Her areas of focus include confidence, leadership style, executive presence, effective communication, succession planning, and masterful execution. With over 25 years of leadership experience, both stateside and abroad, Patti works with individuals, teams, and organizations across industries, providing executive consulting, leadership development, succession planning, change management, and conflict resolution. She is also an experienced Fortune 500 speaker. For more information on how Patti Cotton can help you and your organization, click here.