SWOT and scan to start your plan

“Learn from the past, live in the present, plan for the future.”
So goes a good proverb that has stood the test of time.
And then along comes “management guru” Peter Drucker, who at age 80+ and still going strong, also has stood the test of time. He writes, “In our age of rapid and unexpected change, you cannot truly plan. But you have to try because the alternative is worse.”
O.K., so let’s try. Often, the start of a good strategic planning effort is an Environmental Scan. It answers the question, “What all is going on out there that we have to consider in our plans?”
Quetico Centre’s board and staff did that again recently. We do it about every 18 months, and the topics we explore most often include population, employment, schooling/education, health/health care, government/politics, business/industry, and values.
We assess the implications of what is changing in each area for Quetico Centre’s work. But our exploration method this time made use of the “SWOT Analysis” method. Everyone recorded for each topic:
•a Strength
•a Weakness
•an Opportunity
•a Threat
A SWOT analysis is harder to do than reacting to someone else’s prediction. But it fosters more creativity and depth in the exploration. From a group of 12, we have at least 35 points about the trends for each topic.
Where we found overlap and duplication, it raised our confidence in our perceptions. Where someone had a completely different view from others, it broadened the scope of our examination.
Here is an example of SWOT Analysis learning about employment.
A strength: The north has excellent job opportunities for professionals and para-professionals who enjoy nature and want a good environment to bring up children.
A weakness: High-paying resource industry jobs are giving way to lower-paying information industry jobs in casinos, call centres, and tourism.
An opportunity: Internet and e-jobs can be done from anywhere so more young people may be able to stay in the north and do well.
A threat: Loss of local decision power in large corporations for allocating training dollars and determining training needs and delivery.
The key in doing a helpful SWOT Analysis for environmental scanning is not how accurate you are. While it helps to have a realistic perspective, of course, more important is the ability to maintain optimism–and to see and seize opportunity even in problems and threats.
Whether you are helping a youngster think about secondary schooling, re-orienting your career, thinking about starting your own business, or planning a community service project, a SWOT Analysis can help you think more broadly and deliberately about the issues involved.
It can help you “be your own futurist.” And that’s important because it puts you as much in charge of your life as that “rapid and unexpected change” all around us allows.

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