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Developing strategic options from an external-internal analysis
TOWS Analysis is a variant of the classic business tool, SWOT Analysis. TOWS and SWOT are acronyms for different arrangements of the words Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats.
By analyzing the external environment (threats and opportunities), and your internal environment (weaknesses and strengths), you can use these techniques to think about the strategy of your whole organization, a department or a team. You can also use them to think about a process, a marketing campaign, or even your own skills and experience.
Our article on SWOT Analysis helps you perform a thorough SWOT/TOWS Analysis. At a practical level, the only difference between TOWS and SWOT is that TOWS emphasizes the external environment whilst SWOT emphasizes the internal environment. In both cases, this analysis results in a SWOT (or TOWS) Matrix like the one shown below:
In this article, we look at how you can extend your use of SWOT and TOWS to think in detail about the strategic options open to you. While this approach can be used just as well with SWOT as TOWS, it's most often associated with TOWS. Identifying Strategic Options
SWOT or TOWS analysis helps you get a better understanding of the strategic choices that you face. (Remember that "strategy" is the art of determining how you'll "win" in business and life.) It helps you ask, and answer, the following questions: How do you:
Make the most of your strengths?
Circumvent your weaknesses?
Capitalize on your opportunities? and
Manage your threats?
A next step of analysis, usually associated with the externally-focused TOWS Matrix, helps you think about the options that you could pursue. To do this you match external opportunities and threats with your internal strengths and weaknesses, as illustrated in the matrix below:
TOWS Strategic Alternatives Matrix
External Threats (T)
Internal Strengths (S)
SO "Maxi-Maxi" Strategy
Strategies that use strengths to maximize opportunities. ST "Maxi-Mini" Strategy
Strategies that use strengths to minimize threats.
Internal Weaknesses (W)
WO "Mini-Maxi" Strategy
Strategies that minimize weaknesses by taking advantage of opportunities. WT "Mini-Mini" Strategy
Strategies that minimize weaknesses and avoid threats.
This helps you identify strategic alternatives that address the following additional questions:
Strengths and Opportunities (SO) - How can you use your strengths to take advantage of the opportunities?
Strengths and Threats (ST) - How can you take advantage of your strengths to avoid real and potential threats?
Weaknesses and Opportunities (WO) - How can you use your opportunities to overcome the weaknesses you are experiencing?
Weaknesses and Threats (WT) - How can you minimize your weaknesses and avoid threats?
When you have many factors to consider, it may be helpful to construct a matrix to match individual strengths and weaknesses to the individual opportunities and threats you've identified. To do this, you can construct a matrix such as the one below for each quadrant (SO, ST, WO, and WT).
This helps you analyze in more depth options that hold the greatest promise. Note any new alternatives you identify on the TOWS Strategic Alternatives worksheet.
The TOWS Matrix is a relatively simple tool for generating strategic options. By using it, you can look intelligently at how you can best take advantage of the opportunities open to you, at the same time that you minimize the impact of weaknesses and protect yourself against threats.
Used after detailed analysis of your threats, opportunities, strength and weaknesses, it helps you consider how to use the external environment to your strategic advantage, and so identify some of the strategic options available to you.
Dear Vijeta Shukla
Yet another fantastic & valuable posting from your side. I need to further add that the TOWS [reverse of SWOT] is currently being implemented in Ferari Plant in Italy.
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