The TOWS Matrix – A Guide For Leaders And Managers

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Using a SWOT analysis to help define your business’ strengths, weaknesses, threats, and opportunities is a great starting point for a successful strategy.

But beyond the facts, how do you know what your next step should be?

Bringing the TOWS matrix into the picture can help you take what you’ve learned and put it into practice.

Key Points:

  • The TOWS matrix is a tool you can use alongside your SWOT analysis to identify areas of improvement within your business. It can help you put the findings from your SWOT analysis into action.
  • TOWS differs from SWOT as it gives you the basis of a strategy you can use to identify what needs to change.
  • The TOWS matrix can be applied to help boost business and team performance.

How does it differ from SWOT?

A SWOT analysis and a TOWS matrix use the same acronyms and focus on the same elements – Strengths, Weaknesses, Threats, and Opportunities.

However, whereas a SWOT analysis simply lists the facts, a TOWS matrix helps you to put the pieces together and formulate a plan to move forward. TOWS gives you the basis of a strategy you can use to identify what needs to change.

It can be used to:

  • Build on your strengths
  • Limit your weaknesses
  • Make the most of your opportunities
  • Reduce the risks that come from threats

How can it be applied in a workplace setting?

Any type of business can use the TOWS matrix to work out their short-term and long-term strategy.

TOWS matrix

For example, a manufacturing business may have a TOWS matrix that looks like this:

  • Strengths – Opportunities:
    • Strength: Speed of production has increased
    • Opportunity: Provide fastest delivery of product in the market
    • Outcome: Focus on customer fulfilment to enhance customer satisfaction levels
  • Strengths – Threats:
    • Strength: Strong distribution channels
    • Threat: Competitors using similar channels
    • Outcome: Diversify methods of distribution to gain a competitive advantage
  • Weaknesses – Opportunities
    • Weakness: Minor issues within product testing
    • Opportunities: Funding available for staff in R&D department
    • Outcome: Invest in recruitment to find staff who can improve product
  • Weaknesses – Threats:
    • Weakness: Location is too remote
    • Threat: Competitors in prime locations
    • Outcome: Open a second smaller office in a city to host meetings and build a stronger presence

Carrying out this TOWS matrix has already given this manufacturing company the foundation of a strategy that can help them build and grow over the next year or so.

How can leaders and managers use it to boost performance?

The TOWS matrix can be applied to your business, a new product launch, or even a team’s performance.

By looking at the collective strengths and weaknesses of the group as well as assessing the opportunities within the industry and any threats from competitors, you can gain a deeper understanding of where your workforce needs to focus their attention.

For instance, a Head of Marketing who uses the TOWS matrix could identify that they need more design skills within their team to strengthen the visual appeal of their marketing materials and bring a competitive edge to the business.

That could mean training existing staff in design tools, or ensuring they are able to recruit new staff with these skills.

What are the advantages of using the TOWS matrix?

There are a few advantages of using the TOWS matrix:

  • It gives you a clear, visual idea of the foundations of your strategy
  • It’s easy to use across any industry, team, or individual
  • It assesses internal elements, as well as external
  • It helps you to take action from your SWOT analysis

What are the disadvantages of using the TOWS matrix?

  • You still need to build out a detailed strategy from your TOWS matrix
  • It doesn’t offer any help in terms of priorities
  • You need to be aware of all strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats to make a clear decision
  • It may need input from lots of individuals to make it work

How to help your team become better leaders

Upskilling your team is a great way to help them become better managers and create strategies that win for the business.

Take a look at our Leadership & Management courses below and chat with our friendly team to learn more about how we can tailor programmes for your workforce.

Andrew Wallbridge
Andrew Wallbridge
Andrew is TSW's Head of Leadership & Management. He’s coached and mentored leaders and the senior management teams at international brands.
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