Get Rid of Your SWOT and Create a Bright Strategic Future

I see many companies struggle with strategic planning.  Most of them do a SWOT analysis.  They analyze to death the four items:





I understand the logic behind this model.  It is typical for most technical people.  Find the problems.  Generate the solutions.  Unfortunately, I believe it doesn’t work very well and probably does more harm than good.

By focusing on the problems (weaknesses and threats) even in the context of finding solutions, you actually bring energy and life to those problems.  By focusing on problems, you intensify those problems and generate more problems. In fact, most of the time, the Weaknesses and Threats discussions turn into bitch sessions.  Most companies would be better off doing a SO analysis, focusing on strengths and opportunities.  Mother Theresa was asked if she would attend an Anti-War Rally.  She replied that when they had a PEACE RALLY, she would be there.  Do you see it’s simply a focus on the positive that makes such a huge difference in perception and energy?

There is a great process called appreciative inquiry, a very powerful, positive approach to strategic planning.  See the cycle to the left.  This is the process.  You start by asking these discovery questions, visualize the positive future, design that future, and how to sustain it.  This process creates provocative propositions.  In other words, you ask what makes us motivated and what are the things that we are doing extremely well?  Then you ask how can we replicate that energy and passion in all areas of the business?

Appreciative Inquiry cycle

Discovery Questions:

  1. Think back over your career, through all of its ups and downs and twists and turns. What do you consider to be the peak experience or “high point”–a time when you felt most committed, most connected, and most alive in your work?
  2. Without being humble, what is it that you value most about
    •   Yourself?
    • The nature of your work?
    • Your company?
  3. What do you consider to be the core factor that gives life to your company-that without it, your organization would be dramatically different?
  4. What three wishes would you make to heighten the vitality and health of your company?



Provocative Propositions

  1. Is it provocative? Does it stretch, challenge, or interrupt the status quo?
  2. Is it grounded? Are examples available that illustrate the ideal as a real possibility? Is it grounded in your company’s collective history?
  3. Is it desired? Do you want it as a preferred future?
  4. Is it stated in affirmative and bold terms?
  5. Is it a participative process?
  6. Is it used to stimulate intergenerational learning?
  7. Is there balanced management of continuity, novelty, and transition?

If you want to know more about this, just let me know.  I LOVE this subject.



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