Strategic Planning With S.W.O.T. Analysis

This section guides you through the strategic-planning process using a S.W.O.T. analysis.

The Importance of Strategic Planning

What are you looking for in your team? Is it an open environment where team members can use creativity to address solutions? A collaborative environment where team members work together for the best solutions?

Teams evolve with time and the effort of all the team members, so you can't expect success at the first meeting. In this section we will talk about tools you will need to use with your team to help it become a success.

Having a direction, establishing goals and developing a strategic plan are necessary for a team to be successful. This section guides you through the strategic-planning process using a S.W.O.T. analysis. Completion of the S.W.O.T. analysis will give the team a better idea of the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of the operation. These will guide you on your journey to a successful team, and most importantly, an improved dairy operation.

Committees, groups, businesses, organizations, and even communities frequently use S.W.O.T. analyses to determine their capacity to move forward and address advancing issues. You will want to include the S.W.O.T. analysis as an agenda item for your team in the early stages of development, but after the team has had a chance to tour and learn about the operation so they can better address the components of the analysis.

Defining S.W.O.T.: Internal vs. External Factors

A S.W.O.T. analysis recognizes that there are both internal and external factors that can affect the ability of the farm to be successful.

Internal factors are those that can be addressed on the farm. This would include conditions that might be addressed by operating procedures and/or management decisions on the farm. Your team will be most effective in working in this area.

External factors are those over which you have little influence, or are not in a position to change, but which have a direct influence on the success of your business. Probably one of the best examples of this in the dairy industry is the milk price, which is established by federal milk markets and influenced by global policies and economic forces over which the farm has very little control.

Each of the components of the S.W.O.T. analysis is described below. We'll start with the internal components, or those over which the farm has control:

  • S - Strengths: What this farm does best. Generally the farm is doing above average as compared to other farms in these areas. These strengths will be considered for business augmentation. (i.e. A producer that is good with people might consider having more employees that compliment personal weaknesses, thus making the business stronger.)
  • W - Weaknesses: Areas that this farm needs to improve. Generally the farm is below average as compared to other farms in these areas and needs to make some changes to recognize improvement. (i.e. A producer that is challenged in the area of crop production might consider other ways to grow crops and focus on the cow side where they are stronger.)

    Now we'll define the external components, or those over which the farm has little influence:

  • O - Opportunities: What conditions in the industry or the community might the farm use to improve its position?
  • T - Threats: What conditions in the industry or community might undermine the success of the farm operation?

Once the farm team identifies these components, they can then work to develop a strategy so that the farm is in the best position to benefit from or overcome these situations. These tools will assist you and the team coordinator as you guide the team through this process:

Completing the Analysis

The Producer's Role

You will want to complete the S.W.O.T. analysis at one of your first team meetings. Prior to this, you should give the team an orientation tour of the farm and background information so they have more information to use in this process. The team coordinator should give the team information before the meeting so they can begin thinking about the process and make better use of the team meeting.

Prepare yourself — you want the honest input and impressions from the team to come out through this process. Don't be offended or become defensive if sensitive items are mentioned. Team members will be much more comfortable sharing their honest opinions if you can remain in the listening mode.

One approach is to work through this process first with your team coordinator. Then sit back and listen. Let the coordinator facilitate the discussion and include any of the issues you might have discussed earlier that are not brought up by the group. If you have done a good job in the orientation process, the team will most likely identify the issues that are important to you.

Another approach is for the coordinator to start the process of identifying strengths with the team members and then start with you when identifying weaknesses. Your role at this time is to listen; so sit back and see what you can learn from the perspectives of others.

The Process

The coordinator/facilitator will introduce the concept of S.W.O.T. analysis to the team. They will want to have a flipchart, posterboard, or something that can be used for taking notes during the sharing of ideas. This should be divided into four quadrants - one for each of the components of the S.W.O.T. analysis. The internal-external differentiation between the categories is often confusing to groups, so you may want to list these on your chart as well, to make this easier to remember. A Blank S.W.O.T. Analysis Sheet is provided for your use.

The coordinator/facilitator will lead the group through a brain-storming process for each of the four component areas. Before beginning, the group will want to agree to some brainstorming rules. Here are some that you might want to include:

All ideas are valid — no idea is dumb or stupid.

No one reacts (negatively or positively) to another person's idea. In brainstorming, we want to get as many ideas out as possible in a short time frame. You'll have time to react later. As the brainstorming process proceeds, the ideas become more innovative and less practical. These innovative, but less practical, ideas later in the discussions are refined into novel solutions to old problems. This is the power of brainstorming.

Everyone has equal opportunity to share their ideas.

Once on the table, ideas lose ownership from the presenter and become property of the team.

As you go through the process, the facilitator will want to allow time for each person to think about each item before group sharing. Each participant should have a pen or pencil and paper so they can make notes. It works best if you give the team members 3-5 minutes before group sharing begins to think and make their notes. When the sharing session begins, each person can share from their list and pay better attention to the ideas of others. Repeat the series of individual thinking time followed by team sharing for each of the four quadrants.

The Summary

The S.W.O.T. analysis session should end with the team completing a summary that analyzes the current condition. Lead the team through the items identified during the sharing session and discuss as a group the desired goal or standard for each of these items. The completion of this process is reason for celebration, so be sure to reward or express appreciation to each of the team members for their participation in this process.

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Strategic Planning With S.W.O.T. Analysis

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