So ya gotta make some choices?
ALL groups can benefit from having a few easy-to-implement processes for how to make decisions. Leaders should keep a few of these on deck so that when a turning point comes along, as they are wont to do, its not a total crisis! With the proper tools, evolution and change can be centered around opportunity and growth as opposed to disorder and anxiety. Groups can use SWOT in the decision making process, and back it up with good tech to make decisioning a snap.
One simple but mighty way that groups can streamline the process is to use technology that integrates communicating, messaging, taking surveys, scheduling, and promoting into one platform. With all the tools in one place and available to all members, decision making can be a much quicker and more orderly process. That’s where our group management software can take the reins.
So what is SWOT? When it comes to the critical thinking framework of decision making, leaders understand that this is all about comprehensively mapping the moving pieces needed to get an idea or project off the ground. To handle turning points with poise, we highly recommend acquainting yourself with SWOT analysis.
SWOT: Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats
You can decide how formal you need to make this process, and it will likely vary from decision to decision. At the end of the day, SWOT is essentially a souped up pros and cons list. You’re looking at where your resources, strengths, prospects, and assets lie in comparison to your limitations, challenges, threats, and core weaknesses.
Your Strengths and Weaknesses are internal factors that just speak to your groups current makeup and dynamics- who you are, what you have, and what you’re great at (or not so great at). So when you think of those things, think of these:
- What are our human resources like? Of our active members, who can we reasonably rely on to be pinch hitters in this scenario? Who is great at what? What gaps do we have that we need to fill? Which of the problem areas that we know of may be a liability in terms of the project at hand?
- What are our physical and financial resources? Location, funding, equipment, etc. What assets do we have currently?
- What knowledge have we gained from our previous learning? In our past experience as a group, what can we come up with that will help guide us through this process? What was an absolute disaster that we can step around this time? How can we avoid the total nightmares of the past, and how can we recreate our stunning successes?
**Note: Now is not a time for modesty or virtue signaling. Be honest and bold in your strengths. Nobody is looking over your shoulder, and you’re only selling yourself short if you fail to accurately report all of the resources that you have to call on now. Same goes for your weaknesses, however in our experience groups tend to underreport the good stuff. Remember that the things that you may be taking for granted as normal are actually strengths.
Next, we’ll move on to external factors- these are your Opportunities and your Threats. No group is free from the influences of outside variables, particularly when it comes to major projects, trying to grow your group, and broad strategic planning. Now is the time to consider your outside network and your community connections. When you think of those things, think of these:
- What is currently happening and relevant within your field of interest? What are the broad trends for the type of work you do or the scope of the project you’re looking to make happen? Can you capitalize on what is happening on a cultural level in your field? What timely trends will serve you well to engage with right now? On the other hand, are there external politics or cultural issues that make this just not a great time for the group to make a bold new stride?
- How does the current economy (either locally, nationally, or internationally depending on group type) play into what you are trying to accomplish right now? Also, what outside funding, grants, legislation, etc could help or hurt you at this time?
- Are there any shifts in local demographics or the physical environment that will impact the project or the future of the work that you are looking to do? How does that landscape impact you right now?
With all brainstorming, more sharing and more info dumping is better than less. You can edit down, cross out, and rethink LATER. Whether you, the leader, are doing this SWOT alone or whether you are opening it up to a group process, the same will be true. Let all of the critical thinking and creative comments fly free. All of it is good at this time. Later on, you can cull the most valuable insights into your final mental calculus.
Groups can use SWOT analysis to strategize efficiently
Often, SWOT analyses are depicted as a grid:
Do you need to print a template and fill it out every time there’s a decision to be made? Almost certainly not! However, keeping this visual in mind is a very good way to take a big picture snapshot of what is going on internally and externally that should inform your discussion, particularly if there are more cooks in the kitchen instead of fewer.
For large group planning meetings, drawing the grid out on a whiteboard or flipchart can really tether the conversation and keep things on track. Keeping this visual as a part of the process is also very helpful for those members with auditory processing issues or other neurodivergent traits like ADHD or dyslexia. Being sensitive to that is a great way for leaders to bolster inclusivity as a core value of the group. Visuals just make discussions less stressful and more organized for more people.
So then what?
If your project is looking heavy on Strengths and Opportunities, your group can likely take a more aggressive approach. This is capital in the bank baby! You’re reasonably sure that this will be an overwhelming success. On the other hand, if your investigation instead looks heavy on internal Weaknesses and external Threats, you may look at ways to take a more conservative approach, mitigate some of your risks, or redirect your focus altogether.
Leaders and groups can use SWOT in order to optimize good group decisioning. This holistic approach is flexible enough to have relatively broad application and simple enough to become a quick and easy part of your mental calculus as a leader of a group. Keep this strategy in your toolbox so that when you have to decide, you can decide WELL!
The Team at Groupeasy