"And the beat goes on................."
One of the mainstay lynchpins of business strategic planning has long been the SWOT Analysis tool.
SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. An analysis of a business simply consists of identifying the organization's strengths and weaknesses and considering how each impacts opportunities for the organization to advance its' mission, and are interconnected to the threats and barriers to taking advantage of those opportunities. The purpose is to better understand how the organization functions within its environment, and how it might strategically plan to compensate for its weaknesses and exploit its strengths to recognize and take advantage of opportunities within the ecosystem in which it operates.
Not Rocket Science, but a very useful tool in the planning process. Arts organizations are familiar with strategic planning and engage periodically in the process - usually every two to five years, though five years in today's rapidly changing world may not make sense anymore as circumstances change with rapidity.
Strengths are everything from a loyal subscriber base, sold out performances, stellar critical reviews, big budgets, large donor pools, talented and experienced key staff and so on and so on. The list can be much broader and deeper than many organizations realize as they overlook strengths or minimize the relevance and importance of others.
Weaknesses likewise run the gamut - from inadequate budgets, small staffs, weak donor pools, struggling ticket sales, lack of philanthropic relationships, new entry into the field, heavy competition and so on and so on. Again, even seemingly minor things can be a weakness, including those things hard to quantify - such as weak Board leadership.
Opportunities include any number of potential advantages - including a rich local donor pool, the presence of supporting foundations, growing respect and critical acclaim for the organization, the possibility of increased ticket sales and so on and so on.
And Threats include competition, cash flow challenges, lack of key staffing and so on and so on.
The Analysis part comes after an exhaustive identification of all the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats, as you try to relate them to each other. What opportunities might open because of the strengths? How can the weaknesses be converted to strengths? What needs to be done to exploit the opportunities? How are the threats best dealt with?
Doubtless many of you have done a SWOT Analysis before, even if called by another name. Unfortunately, most of us don't consider that it might be a good idea to doing a SWOT Analysis on a regular basis.
The SWOT tool can be particularly useful if employed on an annual basis irrespective of the strategic planning process. It doesn't take an inordinate amount of time, and it can help crystallize and clarify where the organization finds itself - for staff and Board. There is value in the process of considering the SWOT matrix, which can lead to new insights into what the organization faces and what it might do. And that better understanding can lead to ideas to move the organization forward, and capitalize on the opportunities and neutralize the threats.
What would be really interesting would be to do SWOT Analyses beyond the organizational level - at the regional, state, and even national levels as to the arts field's environments. Beyond the obvious listing in each of the SWOT categories, it would be fascinating - and perhaps telling - to see what we really think our strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, as a field, truly are.
Perhaps you might consider scheduling a SWOT Analysis session with staff and / or Board soon.
Have a great week. And remember: if you're healthy, it is a great week.