Setting personal and business objectives and having a strategy to get to these objectives are deemed as good practices to achieve success. But how does one make sure your strategy will get you the desired results?
What is a strategy?
A simple definition for strategy is a plan of action designed to achieve a particular goal or vision. The American business and management consultant Albert S Humphrey (1926 – 2005) devised the SWOT analysis technique to evaluate an idea or stress-test a strategy by assessing the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of this idea or strategy.
So let’s see if we can use SWOT to put together an achievable strategy.
1. Start with an objective or goal in mind
Let’s say you would like to fill management position X in company Y by the end of 2011. Or your company would like to achieve a market share of 50% by December 2011. Read here for some pointers on goal setting.
2. Do the SWOT analysis
Test your plan of action in terms of its strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats:
Strengths What are your current capabilities or available resources to help you move towards your objective? Make sure you understand why these strengths are relevant to get you to your objective by reflecting on what these strengths can do for you. How will your strengths give you a competitive advantage? In our first example, these strengths might be your track record of good job performance, your industry experience, your ability to plan, organise, control and follow through on actions, and your ability to work with different people.
Weaknesses What will prevent you from achieving your objective? What do you have to develop or acquire to make things happen?
In our first example, it might be your lack of experience in managing a team, your inability to deal with conflict or your lack of exposure to working at a certain level in the organisation.
Opportunities What opportunities exist in your environment that you can use to help you achieve your objective? What should you do to capitalise on those opportunities? In our first example, it could be the opportunity to fill a leadership position at your church or sports club, to attend a relevant conference or to speak to your manager about getting a coach to assist you with your development.
Threats What are the things in your environment that will limit you or prevent you from achieving your objective? In our first example, it could a recession which causes a low staff turnover in management positions in the business sector in which you want to work. Too many competitors for these positions could also pose a threat.
3. Draft your action plan
Once you have done the SWOT exercise, assess whether your objective is realistic and achievable. Next, draft an action plan based on the SWOT exercise to identify the following:
What you should do to build on your strengths?
What skills and experience you should gain to address your weaknesses?
What you should do to capitalise on your opportunities?
What can you change to minimise or remove the threats?
Now move into action. As Robert G Allen says: “Fear melts when you take action towards a goal you really want.”