Use a SWOT analysis for strategic planning

1. Conduct an internal SWOT analysis to identify your company's strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.

2. Review your SWOT analysis and select the most important points to help focus your strategy development.

3. Clarify relationships between strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats by mapping connections.

Define which strengths will allow your company to exploit which opportunities. Highlight which weaknesses make you most susceptible to the threats you are facing. Find ways of turning weaknesses into strengths and threats into opportunities. Evaluate how each component impacts on the others. Avoid being too detailed as you may lose sight of your overarching goals.

4. Outline strategic actions that would help you to address the shortlist of SWOT analysis points. Include broad time and cost estimates, plus an idea of value to your company.

For example, if you identified a gap in the market as an opportunity, put together a sketch of how you’d fill that gap. It might be fairly easy to do, as you can repurpose an existing design, but offer a potential increase in market share.

5. Score your list of potential strategic actions based on the estimated costs compared to expected value.

Ideally, you’re looking for low-cost, high-value options. Keep in mind that fixing company weaknesses might not seem to offer specific value – but the value is in not losing customers, resources, and the like.

6. Prioritize your list of actions based on the scores you gave them.

Take advantage of the largest opportunities and tackle the most pressing problems first.

7. Incorporate your prioritized list of actions into your strategic business plan.

Ensure your strategies are well defined und clearly understood by the whole team.  Set deadlines and targets to evaluate your strategy’s effectiveness.

8. Crosscheck your strategies and the results of the initial SWOT analysis to ensure they are aligned.

Schedule regular reviews of your SWOT and strategic business plan to ensure they are aligned with the overall business goals.