A Whole New Twist On The SWOT

One of the artifacts we have from the ever-paranoid dog-eat-dog world of the Industrial Era was the infamous SWOT analysis. And it lives on in more organizations than we can count. It continues to be an emblematic sacred ritual in the now documented organizations worldwide where there is at least 70% disengagement, which Gallup defines as daily attention to strengths and possibilities, and 90% work without passion.

Because everything we do in the Agile Canvas approach to strategic and business planning is based on science and research, not superstitious traditions, our approach to the SWOT by nature must reflect and align with the data indicating that focus on deficiencies (weaknesses) and fear (threats) effectively diminishes capacity for learning, creativity and courage.

Yes, of course it would be great if a focus on deficiencies and fear led to more creativity and resilience, but that is not how people work. Normal people feel instead the kind of shame and blame, vulnerability and uncertainty that instead invites a sense of defensiveness, mistrust and self-protection. 

That's the data. The folklore argues without data that focus on deficiencies and fear leads us down the royal road to success. We know better because we talk to people after traditional SWOT meetings in which they disguise their real feelings with best behavior in front of superiors politeness, and then later reveal relief that they don't have to revisit those meetings and feelings until the next strategic plan.

So we obviously focus on strengths and opportunities. And we reframe the weaknesses and threats conversations to align with the data, and our exprience worldwide. 

For weaknesses, we ask: What kind of learning would make us better than ever in what we do and how we do it? 

For threats, we ask: If you were to start up a competitive organization today, what would you design into it for unique and meaningful advantage? 

These get at the same focus from a completely and functionally opposite perspective, feeding directly, creatively and productively into the Canvas' Questions and Intentions conversations.  People feel energized by these kinds of questions. It makes them trust each other more deeply which remains significant since teams and organizations move at the speed of trust.