What is TOWS Analysis?
TOWS analysis is a tool which is used to generate, compare and select strategies. Strictly speaking it is not the same as SWOT analysis, and it is certainly not a SWOT analysis which focuses on threats and opportunities. This is a popular misconception. TOWS may have similar roots. TOWS is a tool for strategy generation and selection; SWOT analysis is a tool for audit and analysis. One would use a SWOT at the beginning of the planning process, and a TOWS later as you decide upon ways forward.
There is a trade-off between internal and external factors. Strengths and weaknesses are internal factors and opportunities and threats are external factors. This is where our four potential strategies derive their importance. The four TOWS strategies are Strength/Opportunity (SO), Weakness/Opportunity (WO), Strength/Threat (ST) and Weakness/Threat (WT).
Four TOWS strategies
Strength/Opportunity (SO). Here you would use your strengths to exploit opportunities.
Weakness/Opportunity (WO). Indicates that you would find options that overcome weaknesses, and then take advantage of opportunities. So, you mitigate weaknesses, to exploit opportunities.
Strength/Threat (ST). One would exploit strengths to overcome any potential threats.
Weakness/Threat (WT). The final option looks least appealing; after all, would relish using a weakness to overcome a threat? With Weakness/Threat (WT) strategies one is attempting to minimise any weaknesses to avoid possible threat.
TOWS Analysis – Simple Rules.
- Like many tools, models, concepts and frameworks, TOWS is subjective. It is only as robust as the data which you include within the model.
- Use other models and frameworks to support your strategic choices, such as Ansoff’s Matrix Porters’ Generic Strategies and others.
- Strategy will include internal development for growth, merger, acquisitions and joint-ventures.
- Be as specific as possible and avoid grey areas.
- Always rely on your gut feeling. If it doesn’t feel right, then maybe it isn’t right. Tak another look at simple rule 1 above.