Covid-19 forces people to work from home. It is essential for organizations to develop an adapted strategy to continue operating successfully. SWOT is an excellent tool for identifying the necessary changes.
Almost everyone has experienced a SWOT session. SWOT is a real team effort and doing a SWOT remotely seems impossible at first glance.
In this article, I will share my experiences so far. With a little extra attention, more is possible than I had previously estimated myself.
7 questions you might come across that can help you have a remote SWOT session.
- Is it possible to successfully perform a SWOT remote analysis?
- What are the conditions to keep a remote SWOT?
- What tools do you need to support an external SWOT?
- What are the specific rules when it comes to working well together?
- How do you motivate the team during a remote SWOT?
- How do you report on the progress of the SWOT session?
- What are the positive aspects you get for free?
Is it possible to successfully perform a SWOT remote analysis?
Working from home is not always easy, according to research from the University of Amsterdam. Getting together face-to-face is still indispensable for good cooperation.
However, working from home will not disappear anytime soon. Global Workplace Analytics expects around 25 to 30% of employees to work from home several days a week by the end of 2021.
On the one hand, because the Covid-19 virus will remain in our society for a while. But also, because we are getting used to working from home. More and more good tools are becoming available to support working from home.
Thinking about unnecessary travel in connection with climate objectives will also become more important, with working from home certainly playing a role.
In the first months of 2020 I held a number of SWOT sessions. Where I previously went to organizations to do a SWOT analysis together with a team, I now did this from home.
I had doubts about that beforehand. Now I know that it is possible, but that a number of extra agreements are needed for it to run successfully.
Dividing the SWOT session into different parts, which sometimes took up to 1 week, turned out to be less of an objection than I thought beforehand. Team members started thinking and later came up with great suggestions.
You must also make good agreements in advance for that feedback via email. My clients have made a personal commitment and also asked the team members to keep to these agreements.
The longer turnaround time of the SWOT appears to positively influence the quality of the end result. Team members had time to think carefully about the different SWOT steps. Surprisingly, the end result has improved.
What are the conditions to keep a remote SWOT?
Based on my experience, I have paid a lot of attention to the following points.
Good coordination with the client in advance, about the purpose, the participants and the approach to the SWOT session (1 remote call).
Preparing for the implementation by having a brief introduction to each member and explaining how the SWOT is approached and what it focuses on (3-5 short calls).
Clearly explain the 4 remote SWOT meetings to the team members (4 sessions of 1 hour).
- Good coordination with the client in advance, about the purpose, the participants and the approach to the SWOT session (1 remote call).
- Preparing for the implementation by having a brief introduction to each member and explaining how the SWOT is approached and what it focuses on (3-5 short calls).
- Clearly explain the 4 remote SWOT meetings to the team members (4 sessions of 1 hour).
- Always feedback the results and draw the conclusions in a follow-up session by comparing internal and external factors, resulting in a priority list (3 sessions of 1 hour).
These conditions, the right tools, a good mindset and good involvement of the participants are necessary for a SWOT remote session. The lack of face-to-face contact is difficult, but certainly not insurmountable.
What tools do you need to support an external SWOT?
Everyone is now familiar with holding a video conference call. As a SWOT supervisor, I used an extra camera. For that I have created an extra account to use it during the SWOT session. The second camera focused on a physical whiteboard that I used to communicate with the participants. This is a very handy option, especially if language is a barrier. Do turn off the sound of the second camera, because of a double sound source.
I explained in advance how participants can switch between the camera and their electronic whiteboard. It is best to write a manual and discuss it beforehand in the introductory sessions.
Although I felt that I had made a very clear manual and that it would not be difficult, there were still many questions about it. It also has to do with some skill and experience of the participants themselves. In the meantime, I have expanded my manual with clear screenshots.
What are the specific rules when it comes to working well together?
As with any remote session, participants must have a certain discipline to let each other finish. That is of course much more important during a SWOT session.
Differences with an ordinary remote consultation are mainly in the following points:
- As an external supervisor, an introduction to each individual participant in advance. Due to the lack of face-to-face contact, it is important that you have built up a personal relationship with the various participants beforehand. That makes working much more pleasant. The first time I had insufficiently realized this myself and it got in the way.
- Limit the number of participants to 5, regardless of the note taker. It doesn’t work as well with more participants. Often people drop out or they do not or not enough supply.
- I have advised against working with a mobile phone by participants where possible. In addition to an unclear connection, you cannot work with the electronic whiteboard. Again, I only found out when a participant participated via his phone.
- Make an agreement that participants can speak out clearly and give other participants the opportunity to ask each other questions. Note: a positive approach is then important.
- Ensure that participants positively support each other, especially when naming the opportunities. As with brainstorming, there is an atmosphere in which participants can name all points, without any direct rejection or negative comments.
- Sending minutes by should not take longer than 1 day to arrive. Good agreements with the client and the note taker are then necessary. Give everyone the opportunity to consult with the note taker and send a second adapted version 1 day later, if necessary.
Good agreements in advance are indispensable. Communicate them to participants in advance, put them on paper and send them around by email. As a supervisor you intervene immediately if the discussion goes unstructured. Communicate the latter to the participants in advance.
How do you motivate the team during a remote SWOT?
Motivating the team of participants starts in advance in consultation with the client. Choosing the right participants is much more important than face-to-face SWOT sessions. Making the client aware of the importance of this helps with a good composition of the team.
It is also good to explain clearly what is expected of the participant in the individual introductory interviews. It is important to listen carefully to the specific questions and comments from the participants. That is much closer than with a face-to-face SWOT.
I do an interim evaluation with the participants after the first joint session. After the strengths, it is good to inquire about the course of the process and whether the individual participants have any questions or comments about it. Announcing in advance that there will be an interim evaluation moment about the course of the process will help participants to be aware of the process.
Finally, give all participants the opportunity to hold a separate video conference call with you as a supervisor. So that during the process the participant shares things that are bothering him or her.
How do you report on the progress of the SWOT session?
The role of the note taker is important in a remote SWOT. Agreeing that the details of a step will be delivered to the participants in the mailbox the next day is one of them. Participants ask to report any inaccuracies quickly so that no ambiguities or inaccuracies remain during the process.
If the client does not participate in SWOT, it is also useful to provide feedback weekly after a session.
All in all, being extra careful when it comes to reporting is essential. Building a good relationship with the team members is an important factor in this. If you hold an international SWOT as a supervisor, cultural factors also play a role. In some cultures, people are not used to putting things sharply and clearly.
What are the positive aspects you get for free?
A face-to-face SWOT is clearly preferable to the remote SWOT session. Nevertheless, there are certainly a number of advantages.
- Every step is more consciously considered, because there is more time, often several days to a week, to think about the SWOT analysis. This improves the quality of the SWOT analysis as a whole.
- Paying extra attention to the process in advance helps to ensure a better SWOT session. The clear agreements in advance create a lot of space to focus on the content of the SWOT analysis during the sessions.
- For companies that work in different locations, sometimes hundreds or more kilometers apart, it is a solution. It is sometimes not possible to continue on the old road and renewing the current strategy using a SWOT analysis is no luxury.
- The step of interim feedback yields a lot. It can lead to a more realistic estimate and a better end result.
- The recording can be made more accurate, because the SWOT steps are spread over time, instead of being completed within a day.
Keeping a remote SWOT is perfectly possible. However, a number of things will have to be properly coordinated. You can adjust a lot by keeping in good contact with the participants. The disadvantage is that the lead time is longer.
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