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Send SWAT Teams!
SWOT Analysis Is  Killing Your Vision!

By Joel Alpert


SWAT emergency teams have been dispatched to your area! They are in position to swat your SWOT off your desk!



[ ATLANTA]   If you’ve been using the classic SWOT Analysis strategic tool, you won’t be arrested. But your branding and business strategy have been arrested — as in "limited" —  if you have been using this inadequate tool.


Why is SWOT inadequate?


Doesn’t it gather essential information needed to understand your business and the marketplace? Yes…but really no.


Isn't it a great tool...a classic tool...part of our vernacular in business,  management, and marketing?   Yes…but really no.


SWOT gathers information. Of course you remember that SWOT stands for Strengths and Weaknesses (of the company)…and Opportunities and Threats (in the marketplace). I’ve called this a “marketing snapshot” of your company’s "current reality."


The reason why we need to pop a cap in the butt of SWOT is because that’s all it is — a snapshot. A photo which shows you what’s going on in the moment. At best, it’s a good description of what’s going on “now.”


Here’s the punchline: With all the stuff you’ve learnt and agree with — about vision, and thought leadership, and purple cows, and blue oceans...


... don’t you think that real vision…. and a clear look at the components of what you're offering...and why buyers say "yes" and "closing the gap" between where you  are, and where you want to go — should be pivotal in the model you’re using for branding and organizational strategy?

Don’t you think that, at best, doing a marketing snapshot, and then overlaying a “vision exercise” – later -- is a bit cross-eyed?

If you’re only looking at what you have now (“situation analysis”), you’re killing your vision — not caused by reading in the dark, but because you should be able to see there’s no movement towards creating anything, if your destination and current perspective are not part of the thinking equation!

"Situation Analysis” has value… but it’s not generative.

"Situation Analysis" doesn’t create anything. 

Are you going to suggest that your most enlightened corporate vision and management direction will be based on "the way things are"...from among your "available choices?" Uh-uh.


And while it does have some valuable uses, Situation Analysis is hardly the best tool to use when doing branding work or strategic planning.

Your best vision will be developed by seeing things freshly (including "what is") and inventing new direction for your company — whether that’s a functional overhaul or a transformation of the company purpose.

You want to know where you're going.

Imagine if SWOT were an Opportunity to take a vacation. If it’s a snapshot of how things are in the moment — and if your destination is not in focus, how do you know whether to pack ski pants and boots....or flipflops and swimsuits?


Is it going to really help you so greatly to know that your suitcase is on the floor of your bedroom?

Want a great option to being stuck with what you got?


"Being stuck with what you got" does not exactly embody brilliant or valuable change. If you’re going to engage the brainpower of your team to create strategic or branding change (without Recurring Eyeroll Syndrome), let's use good thinking tools. 


A very practical model was developed by Robert Fritz, Inc., called Structural Tension, which I’ve been using for many years. It’s simple and clear. After some efficient reality-based information-gathering… we bring in key team players from the company, and together…

(1) Specify the destination, gaining a clear picture of the End Results.

(2) In relation to the End Results, we isolate relevant factors and define “what’s going on now?”...what is the Current Reality?

 (3) Create Action Steps will help the business move most efficiently from where you are… to where you want to go.


Keeping both points in clear focus — End Results and Current Reality — creates this desirable tension, which you purposely set up. This places a powerful dynamic tension in place which seeks resolution, which we do with our Action Steps. 

Whether you do branding only or a more comprehensive business plan, (ours are PowerBranding or PowerPlanning Strategic Action Plan), you'll want do some eye-opening work on what your offering is really about... take a fresh look at who wants it, and why (!)... company goals...and where there is a "match of interests" where your prospects turn into customers.

You need to know where you are, otherwise your best driving directions — “1,280 miles east, then head 170 miles north” — won’t work, if you think you're driving from Kansas City to New York… but you're really in Miami.

While that process can indeed be straightforward, it requires guidance and ongoing reclarification. And it should have deeper levels of consulting thinking that ensure we produce accurate, relevant and adequately-detailed input. That often does not happen.


Corporate America — it’s generals and foot soldiers — are famous for ensuring that their legions make things sound better than they actually are in reality. Otherwise they lose influence in the company, or lose their jobs. And many of us marketers swell up like puffer fish when we describe products and services. Our challenge is akin to what Oscar Wilde said: “To be clear at all costs."

You just can’t create results effectively if you’re not living in reality

if you’re not clear on your starting point and your current state, any steps you take might, at best, help you stumble in the right direction … and at worst have you hit the pavement face first.

So a good consultant or internal team leader will help keep your destination in sight, and help you take a clear hard look at your current reality. That is the most powerful and effective way to produce results. Clear destination… clear starting point…practical action. 


So how do I know this model is better?

I’ve worked with folks who have used all kinds of models, including SWOT and Structural Tension.


For example, I even worked with a notable ad agency that brought me in to help with branding, run targeted marketing tactics and produce the repositioning and targeted creative campaign for a 3-lettered global technology company.


At first I was intrigued — we used a process they were all buzzed about — with colored Post-It Notes to display everyone’s input, confidentially. Top executives participated, this was going to be transformative, innovative, kinda magical. Everyone had a large Post-It Note pad of their own color, and could guide the direction of this new technology product and program


However, it didn’t take more than about 4 minutes for everyone in the room to figure out that the Big Boss’ personal note color was lime green. And the symphony of almost-disguised sycophantic behavior that endorsed every lime green Post-It that hit the whiteboard... also didn’t move the ball ahead. The Big Boss was clearly unfamiliar with the developmental thinking that was done, which might have lead to a Big Idea... but his "guidance" merely solidified old strategic and branding direction that was... at best, weak. (Arghh.)

I can tell similar tales of Gimme A Break, with various processes that are well-meaning... but just not powerful enough.


Okay, okay, long has it been since my last confession?


I’ve used SWOT about 10 months ago, when a business owner asked for it, and a level of detail was actually valuable for a competitive analysis. It was useful at that point — only after the “structural tension” model was deployed, and we had established clear direction.


If you haven’t established that clear direction....much of the detail in SWOT is of limited value or irrelevant…falling like a spent sniper shell… splattering under the sudden flick of a fly swatter.  Why would you care that you pass 3 slope-side pro shops where you can get your snow skis waxed at half price....if you’re on the way to the beach? Information collected when there is no strategic focus is just… noise.

Here's your challenge: Can you and your team stop texting long enough during your strategic planning meetings to do your best work — to figure out where you’re headed… and take aim at your goals?

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Joel Alpert has been working for many years with the unique consulting tools developed by Robert Fritz, Inc., and has paired up to work with a variety of branding and marketing leaders. He's developed branding, strategy and marketing for the Fortune 500 and the SMB "Fortune 500,000," using Structural Tension and other Fritz consulting methodologies. 

Keywords: #swot #swotanalysis #strategicplanning #branddevelopment #brandconsultant #brandconsultancy #brandconsulting #brandmanagement #brandingprocess #rebrand #rebranding #atlanta #structuralconsulting  #robertfritz #robertfritzinc.

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The Lighter Side Of "Situation Analysis"


A man in a hot air balloon realized he was lost. He reduced altitude and spotted a woman below. He descended a bit more and shouted, "Excuse me, can you help me? I promised a friend I would meet him an hour ago, but I don't know where I am."

The woman below replied, "You're in a hot air balloon hovering
approximately 30 feet above the ground. You're between 40 and 41 degrees north latitude and between 59 and 60 degrees west longitude."

"You must be an engineer," said the balloonist. "I am," replied the woman, "How did you know?"

"Well," answered the balloonist, "everything you told me is, technically correct, but I've no idea what to make of your information, and the fact is I'm still lost. Frankly, you've not been much help at all. If anything, you've delayed my trip."

The woman below responded, "You must be in Management." "I am," replied the balloonist, "but how did you know?"

"Well," said the woman, "you don't know where you are or where you're going. You have risen to where you are due to a large quantity of hot air. You made a promise which you've no idea how to keep, and you expect people beneath you to solve your problems. The fact is you are in exactly the same position you were in before we met, but now, somehow, it's my fault."



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