By Adrian Johansen
Project management is often both art and science. You have to wear the hat of career coach and business strategist simultaneously. You have to be an analyst, planner, and motivator all at once.
In other words, project management is an incredibly demanding endeavor, and there is no single template that can help you accomplish your role, no formulaic solution to promote efficiency and ensure stellar outcomes.
That does not mean, however, that as a project manager you must resign yourself to a more extemporaneous, ad hoc, and intuitive work process. There are systematic approaches that can help you improve your methods as a project manager. Among the most promising of these is the use of SWOT analysis.
What is SWOT Analysis?
SWOT is a framework that has been used with great success for decades by business leaders and decision-makers to ensure a more accurate and comprehensive analysis of a company’s overall operating environment as well as the internal “health” of the organization itself.
SWOT is an acronym that stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats, the four domains assessed during a SWOT analysis. The first two domains refer to the positive and negative conditions operating within the organization itself. The second domains reflect external factors, including market conditions, customer trends, and competitor strength. While SWOT, as has been seen, has traditionally been used to analyze the well-being of a company and the market conditions in which it exists, the same framework can be used to evaluate the attributes of a project and a project team.
When you’re conducting a SWOT analysis to improve your project management strategy, you’re going to want to begin by identifying the particular strengths you could leverage to maximize efficiency, productivity, and performance across the project development lifecycle.
You might, for example, look for often under-appreciated soft skills in your team members which could be beneficial to your project goals. If you have a team member who is a particularly effective communicator, for instance, you might assign them the role of contact person for team members and clients alike.
By optimizing the flow of information in this way, you’re going to reduce the risk of miscommunication and information silos while supporting team performance and customer service. Every team member’s individual strengths, in other words, become assets to be leveraged throughout the project lifecycle.
As has been shown, taking pains to outline the particular strengths that your company, your team, and the parameters of the project itself can greatly enhance your management strategy. By the same token, recognizing the particular weaknesses that exist in each of these arenas will better enable you to mitigate the harms that may result from them.
For instance, in the wake of the pandemic and in the face of continuing economic and social volatility, your staff is likely experiencing a tremendous amount of stress. They may be suffering from anxiety or depression, threats that not only undermine your employees’ quality of life but also their productivity and performance.
Shoring up your project team by addressing the mental health challenges that threaten to weaken it is essential. This might include, for instance, offering access to mental health support or flex time opportunities for employees who are caregivers and may benefit from alternative work processes.
While a strengths analysis helps you to capitalize on the internal assets your company and your team bring to a project, an opportunities analysis looks outward, examining the market and operating conditions to identify and seize upon unrealized potential. A particularly fruitful strategy for seizing on untapped opportunities is to assess the state of your community. Try to identify unmet needs within your community, needs which your project may be able to address. This can be a highly effective way to penetrate new markets, drive growth, and raise brand awareness.
Challenges to the success of your project management strategy don’t always arise from within. Indeed, some of your project’s most significant threats are likely to be external. Ongoing economic uncertainty makes the market a very tough place to operate in today.
This means, for example, that project managers must remain acutely aware of existing and potential threats to funding across the project lifecycle, as well as ways to finance those projects in the face of those threats. Preparing in advance to secure secondary or supplemental small business funds is perhaps one of the most important steps a project manager can take to reduce external threats to the successful completion of your project.
There is no right or wrong way for project managers to operate. However, innovative approaches such as the use of SWOT analysis can help make project management strategies more efficient and effective. The fundamental goal of a SWOT analysis is to identify the unique assets, both internal and external, that can be leveraged for each project while at the same time recognizing the liabilities that may harm the project, whether from the outside or from within.