I had an amusing encounter recently while working on strategy planning for two different clients (yes, I am easily amused).   One client was focused on their SWOT.  The other was focused on SWAT.

A SWOT is a common planning framework – a 2×2 grid that identifies Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats.  Its a popular framework because its easy to understand.  But at the same time, it on its own usually doesn’t produce useful insights.  I follow a LinkedIn discussion group on strategy planning and there was a recent vigorous debate on the merits of SWOT as a planning tool.  The conclusion in this thread, like many things, is that a SWOT exercise can be a valuable and worthwhile exercise, but is not a panacea for strategy planning.

A SWAT strategy is something different.  SWAT stands for “Sell Whats Available Today”.  All to often, we get excited about selling that next great thing and forget that we’ve already got lots of great things to sell.  Its an interesting exercise to do growth planning using the constraint of no new innovations or product development.  That constraint forces your growth strategy to focus on the market, customers, pricing, and competition.  Suddenly your debating target segments, value propositions, under-served markets, new pricing models, geographical expansion, competitive positioning, etc.

So both SWOT and SWAT are interesting strategic framework tools.   I’m guessing most organizations have spent too much energy on their SWOT and not enough energy on a SWAT.

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