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An Introduction to TOWS Analysis


What is a TOWS Analysis?

A TOWS Analysis is an extension of the SWOT analysis you completed that identifies your Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats but then goes further in looking to match up the Strengths with Opportunities and the Threats with Weaknesses. It allows for you to take action from the analysis.

Adding the relationship between the internal (SW) and external factors (OT) of your SWOT makes TOWS is an obvious next step. The main purpose of a TOWS Analysis is to:

  • Reduce threats
  • Take advantage of opportunities
  • Exploit strengths
  • Remove weaknesses

Strengths to Opportunities: The S-O focuses around how you can exploit your strengths in order to respond to the potential opportunities in the market.

Strengths to Threats: The S-T examines how strengths can be used to mitigate or remove the threats to the business, and in some cases look at how threats can be transformed to opportunities.

Weaknesses to Opportunities: The W-O can be the hardest consideration, as it doesn’t always come naturally. Consider how your opportunities can remove your weaknesses.

Weaknesses to Threats: The W-T highlights how weaknesses can play into, develop or enhance the threats of the business.

How do you make the most out of TOWS?

While no preparation is required for a TOWS beyond some knowledge of the internal and external environment you operate in, it is helpful to have knowledge of:

  • Advice/input from alumni with your degree/major, employers in your industry
  • Latest news and trends in your industry
  • Job market news
  • Positive & negative supervisor/faculty/group member/customer feedback

Part I: The TOWS Process

Step 1 – Complete a SWOT

  • Before you can complete a TOWS, you must have an updated SWOT.

Step 2 – Identify The Actions

Now it’s time to begin asking questions that will give you clear actions. (Not every part of your SWOT will link to every other part – that’s ok.)

Strengths & Opportunities

The relationship between your internal strengths and external opportunities looks at how to take advantage of the opportunities using your strengths. Compare each strength against each opportunity and ask yourself:

  • Can this strength be used to take advantage of the opportunity?
  • What actions do we need to take to make use of the strength?

Strengths & Threats

Avoiding or mitigating the threats is crucial to success. Take a look at each strength and consider them against each threat. Ask yourself:

  • Can this strength reduce or remove this threat?
  • What do we need to do to remove or reduce this threat?
  • Is it a priority?

Weaknesses & Opportunities

At first glance it may seem unusual to map a weakness to an opportunity, but the link is as important as the other relationships. Taking the same approach, go through each weakness and compare it to each opportunity considering…

  • Does this weakness prevent or risk this opportunity?
  • Should I address the weakness?
  • What actions do I need to take to remove the weakness?

Weaknesses & Threats

This isn’t a cheery section – look at the weaknesses and the threats, both are risks to your desired professional outcomes. Ask yourself…

  • Which relate to each other?
  • Are there weaknesses that result in threats?
  • Which elements should be addressed?

Step 3 – Prioritize & Assign Actions

Once you’ve been through each relationship, you’ll have a list of defined actions. Place them into a priority order based on your needs and desired outcomes.

Part II: Submit in Canvas

Provide your answers to the following in Canvas:

  1. Strengths-Opportunities: How will you use strengths to take advantage of opportunities?
  2. Strengths-Threats: How will you use strengths to remove threats?
  3. Weaknesses-Opportunities: Which weaknesses hold you back? What do you plan to do to mitigate or remove them?
  4. Weaknesses-Threats: What threats can be removed? How will you do that?
  5. Of the actions you listed above, which are your top 5 priorities?

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