Use your environment to your advantage!
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When it comes to strategic planning, it is crucial to analyze your organization’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats - often referred to as a SWOT analysis - in order to determine how to effectively capitalize on these characteristics and ultimately thrive in the market. The idea is to identify these four components in order to make the most of your organization’s strengths, work around your weaknesses, deal with external threats, as well as capitalize on opportunities in the environment. However, there is a lesser known variation of the SWOT analysis - namely, the TOWS analysis - that should be taken into consideration as well. While both methods focus on internal strengths and weaknesses and external opportunities and threats, TOWS focuses externally, while SWOT is internally focused. In other words, while SWOT starts with identifying internal strengths and weaknesses (and then identifying the corresponding external opportunities and threats), TOWS starts by identifying external opportunities and threats, and then finding the strengths and opportunities to match. Questions to ask yourself: How will your organization capitalize on opportunities and avoid threats, given your strengths? How will your company use the identified opportunities and threats to lessen or rise above weaknesses? In crafting your TOWS analysis, it can be helpful to draw out a matrix. After that, it is important to identify what kind of strategy you are leaning towards. A “maxi-maxi” strategy focuses on using strengths to maximize opportunities, while a “maxi-mini” strategy focuses on using strengths to minimize threats. A “mini-maxi” strategy minimizes weaknesses by taking advantage of external opportunities. Finally, a “mini-mini” strategy minimizes weaknesses in an effort to reduce or avoid external threats. Regardless of which type of strategy your organization chooses, it is important that it makes strategic sense. The ultimate goal in a TOWS analysis is to use your environment to your strategic advantage, while proactively in ensuring that you are circumventing any threats to your company that you have identified in the market. Further, alignment is key. Not only should your strategy reflect the characteristics of your company; it should also be in alignment with your organization’s mission and vision.