Sunday, July 18, 2010

Be better, know your SWOT

Over time, I’ve come to identify a passion for continuous development. I believe what makes you different now from how you were a while ago is how much and how well you have grown. I like to assess myself and those around me to ascertain if growth has occurred. For those who know me personally, I tend to challenge the status quo now and then… asking, can it be better? How else can it be done?

A few years back, I discovered the S.W.O.T analysis is not only meant for businesses. For continual and personal development, it’s an exercise we need to carry out periodically. It would help us appreciate our growth and strategize for further growth, in addition to increasing productivity.

S.W.O.T (for those not familiar with it) is the acronym for Strength, Weakness, Opportunities and Threats. In carrying out the analysis therefore, we assess ourselves on what we are good at, what we aren’t so good at (or not good at) and what is available to make us better or posing as a danger in our lives.

Due to our backgrounds, experiences, exposures and of course personalities, we have developed certain abilities that come naturally and easy to perform. Some can make something out of nothing, some can create a beauty out of a beast, some can sell an AC unit to an Eskimo, some can remember details or even memorize a 15-digit number. However strengths don’t have to be those genius-kind-of abilities alone, it could even be as simple as being able to cheer up someone (which I don’t think is simple anyway). The challenge is to appreciate the strength and keep it consistent.

Just as strengths come easy, so do weaknesses. In fact we tend to struggle more with weaknesses. Uncontrollable emotions, indiscipline (with self and resources) and many more are things we need to know early enough and begin to work on so it doesn’t deter our progress or even affect any aspect of our lives. I’ve started to use the term “gap” instead as it simply makes me know these are things that must be closed or resolved or brought to the barest minimum for my good and others as well.

While pondering over the SWOT, I’ve learnt that we can only know Opportunities and Threats when we have set certain goals and aspirations for ourselves. So for instance, if my plan is to become the head of a department in a particular function and I know I need some experience in a unit in the department, a vacancy in that unit for my level of skill is an Opportunity. On the other hand, if I discover the organization is making plans to restructure in such a way as to move me to a different role and department, to my career goal, that becomes a Threat.
Some threats however don’t always come looking negative, however when compared with our ultimate goal it becomes clear it would only serve to deter. There is therefore nothing as good as being able to identify an opportunity when it comes especially when one is prepared for it and keys into it. Same thing for being able to spot a threat on time, strategize and quickly deal with it.

A good way to get to know your strengths and weaknesses is with sincere feedback from those around you. I got a book recently and passed it round some friends to help me by asking them to state what I need to be consistent in and what gaps I need to close. On the opportunities and threats, I am constantly reviewing my goals, so it’s engraved in my sub-conscious and can set off alarms for both when they occur. I therefore encourage – know your SWOT, to grow, to be better or to be a step ahead.