Monday, August 11, 2003

Journey on entrepreneurship: Using the SWOT analysis

Monday, August 11, 2003

By Moje Ramos-Aquino
Journey on entrepreneurship: Using the SWOT analysis

Now you know where you want to bring your business in the future by defining your enterprise vision, mission and values. The next thing to do is to ascertain where you are vis-à-vis your desired future state. This is what is called situation analysis. After this, you will determine your priorities, strategies and plans on how to reach your dream from where you are in the present.

Our references for this leg of our Journey on Entrepreneurship are: Team-based Strategic Planning by C. Davis Fogg; The Northbound Train by Karl Albrecht; Strategy Pure and Simple (How winning CEOs outthink their competition) by Michel Robert; The Strategy-Focused Organization (How balanced scorecard companies thrive in the new business environment); by Robert Kaplan and David P. Norton, Business Think; by Dave Marcum, Steve Smith and Mahan Khalsa; and Strategy Safari by Henry Mintzberg, Bruce Ahlstrand and Joseph Lampel. These are all available from my favorite bookstore, Fully Booked at Rockwell Powerplant Mall. We will also borrow quotes from various sources.

Situation analysis is commonly known as the SWOT, or analysis of organizational strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. It pushes you to think outside fixed boundaries of your traditional operations and organization. You cannot manage and grow your business from and within the inside alone. There are new ways of deploying knowledge, technology, people and resources and arranging your processes. Karl Albrecht refers to it as the shift from self-contained organization to value-creating enterprise.

Strengths refer to the positive attributes, inherent assets, that allow your enterprise to endure, survive, perform, to be efficient, and effective, to grow and to eventually lead. Weaknesses refer to negative areas that beg for improvement and loopholes in your plans and programs that hinder your enterprise from performing effectively

The areas to assess your strengths and weaknesses are: Culture, organization structure, policies, systems, processes, management and leadership practices and people. You will also look at your enterprise or business operations such as cost efficiencies, financial structure and performance, quality service delivery, technology, market segments or performance, innovation, asset condition and productivity.

To do this, you need to look back and examine the history of your enterprise with the purpose of establishing a perspective for considering its possibilities for success in the future. Bill Moyers once said: “The past is no row of bare facts waiting to be memorized by school children. Nor does it stand in our backyard like an old picket fence, slowly and silently rotting. The past is a real world, inhabited by villains and heroes and regular folks passing this way on swift journeys. Their story is our story–the tie that binds each generation to all the others.” In Tagalog, we simply say, “ang hindi lumingon sa pinangalingan ay hindi makakarating sa paroroonan.” There is also a saying that your reputation precedes you. But no matter how difficult or hurting those experiences have been, examining the past is a good starting point and perspective for thinking about the future.

Our past is our future to a large extent. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel. Of course, you could always take a quantum leap to go to a totally new future. That’s a different topic altogether.

Your answers to these questions will give you a good view of your enterprise’s organization and functional strengths and weaknesses. You need to make full use of your whole brain, and not just your logical, mathematical brain, to answer the questions from different perspectives honestly.

Who are your intended clients or customers?
What are you good at?
What are your outputs, products and services?
What are your performance indicators or outcomes?
Where you are vis your targets?
Where are you vis best performers (benchmarks)? Where could you improve?
How do you manage and think?
What is your cost-benefit ratio?
What is your input-output ratio?
How do you optimize your resources?
Which resources have created the greater impact on clients or customers?
What are helpful and hurting leadership practices and behaviors?
How are your planning, budgeting, organizing, staffing, evaluating, monitoring, leading, directing, coordinating, orchestrating, controlling, compensating and rewarding processes?
How is your marketing functioning: Positioning, products and services, packaging, location, people, promotion and advertising?
How are your operating factors: Manpower, service facilities, equipment, fixtures, tools, materials, supplies, methods and processes, floor operations?
How are your human resource programs: Recruitment, job-fit, training and development, career and succession, rewards and recognition, punishment and condonation?
How are your finances: Fund management practices, cash flow, liquidity and solvency, investments and financing?
How are your long-term cross-functional programs and projects?
How are your ad-hoc programs and projects?
Are your physical facilities and set-up helping optimize productivity?
Are your environmental surroundings safe and secure for your employees and your company?
Are you a team?
How do you measure team functioning and performance?
How do you measure individual productivity and effectiveness?
How do you measure the efficient and effective use of resources and information?
Are the working conditions conducive?
Are your employees happy? Are they having fun?
What are your organizational linkages?
How are you optimizing your benefits from your networks and partnerships?
Finally, do we learn and develop? Why do we keep on repeating the same mistakes over and over?

Next column, we shall help you scan your external environment and identify opportunities and threats to your enterprise.

1st Congreso Internacional 2003 Panama. You are invited to attend the ASTD Global Network Panama Conference and Expo on September 17 to 19, 2003, at the Hotel Riande Continental, Panama City, Panama. Conference languages are both Spanish and English. Speakers from Africa, Australia, India, the Philippines, United States, Europe and Central and South American countries will truly give this conference an international perspective. This columnist will be speaking on the topic “Leadership and Development.” For details and brochures, please call Grace Victoriano at 715-9332.

(Ms. Moje Ramos-Aquino is president of Paradigms & Paradoxes Corp. and helps companies develop and implement strategies and plans. She could be reached at

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