The SWOT/TOWS (threats, opportunities, weaknesses, strengths) model helps groups develop a prioritized set of strategies and next actions to leverage their strengths and opportunities, and minimize weaknesses and threats. This is a collaborative, reusable model that can be used in strategy development. With our SWOT/TOWS analysis model, you can perform the assessment synchronously or asynchronously, engaging more people with more diverse experiences to deliver richer insights and more creative strategies.
Our SWOT/TOWS analysis model follows 6 steps:
- Identify threats and opportunities, then weaknesses and strengths.
- Eliminate and/or consolidate duplicates.
- Select the most important T, O, S, and W’s identified.
- Rate the impact of each item on the organization.
- Develop a short-term action plan for each of the four areas.
- Develop a long-term strategic plan to leverage your strengths and mitigate your weaknesses against opportunities and threats.
The SWOT/TOWS analysis should be used by everyone involved in the organization (Campbell, 2017). It can be applied both to organizational planning as a whole, or to assess specific departments, products, or marketing.
The SWOT/TOWS analysis is a simple and valuable technique that helps identify opportunities and threats from an external perspective focused on the future, and strengths and weakness from an internal perspective focused on today. Reviewing the relationship between threats, opportunities, weaknesses, and strengths is valuable in developing strategies and making decisions.
Examining threats and opportunities first before examining your organization’s strengths and weaknesses (i.e., performing a TOWS analysis rather than the traditional SWOT) can allow for more productive discussions about the external environment. This will allow you to identify emerging threats and opportunities, providing a more solid, focused basis on which to discuss your weaknesses and strengths (Watkins, 2007).
Performing the TOWS analysis regularly in your organization can help you anticipate problems, identify and address necessary changes or improvements, and make more informed decisions (Campbell, 2017).
You can conduct each of the SWOT components as separate evaluations, or together as a full SWOT/TOWS analysis. In each of the four topics, the following activities take place:
What specific threats or obstacles could impact us in the future?
What specific opportunities could we take advantage of in the future?
What specific weaknesses or disadvantages do we currently have?
What specific strengths or advantages do we currently have?
2) COMBINE to eliminate duplicates and move forward with only unique ideas.
3) VOTE for the ideas you feel are most important for your organization to focus on.
4) RATE each based on impact to the organization.
Example: What impact will this threat have on the organization?
0 = No impact
1 = Minimal impact
2 = Moderate impact
3 = Major impact
4 = Massive impact
5) ACTION PLAN: Develop an action plan to address any short-term or urgent concerns identified during the analysis of the threats, opportunities, weaknesses, and strengths.
6) LONG-TERM STRATEGIC PLAN: Develop a long-term strategic plan to achieve your goal(s) that considers each of the four areas. What strategies could leverage our strengths/opportunities and minimize our weaknesses/threats?
- Prioritized list of your organization’s greatest threats and opportunities
- A well-developed strategic approach to utilize strengths and minimize weaknesses
- A balanced foundation for strategic planning
BENEFITS & IMPACT
This exercise will enable:
Quality – Engage a diverse group of people to deliver deeper insights and effective strategies based on the relationship between each of the four areas.
Efficiency – Leverage strengths and mitigate weaknesses to efficiently take advantage of opportunities and overcome threats.
Engagement – Involve all stakeholders in the process for better buy-in on the resulting strategic decisions.
Agility – Revisit and reuse the SWOT/TOWS analysis across your organization to ignite change and pivot quickly based on changing market and organizational demands.
Campbell, C. (2017). How to conduct a SWOT analysis (with 6+ examples). Shopify Blogs.
Watkins, M. D. (2007). From SWOT to TOWS: Answering a reader’s strategy question. Harvard Business Review.