Refine Your School’s SOWTS Analysis

Last week, I mentioned the importance of having an SWOT or TOWS analysis, and encouraged you to conduct one as an OWTS process. Not only for your school, but for yourself as well. To review, these letters stand for Opportunities, Weaknesses, Threats and Strengths.  Perhaps start with defining your Strengths, making it a SOWTS analysis, since you can’t end on stopping the process with focusing on those things which threaten your school’s future.

Strengths and Weaknesses are things about the school you lead that you currently have some control over.

  • Strengths are positive attributes that make your school a remarkable place to learn;
  • Weaknesses are those things that you need to improve because they’re a reality of the experience of your school.

Opportunities and Threats are things about the school you lead that you may not have control over.

  • Opportunities are dreams that hold potential success;
  • Threats are dangers that hold potential damage to your school. You need to be aware of them, but there may be little you can do about them.  Therefore, you may have to have a plan in place regarding how to deal with a threat.

Why the SOWTS order?

  • Strengths start the process on a positive note.
  • Opportunities give you the chance to dream and brainstorm about your school, and help the vision you have for your school to become clearer.
  • Weaknesses and Threats are negative attributes, and starting with either of them could be depressing and discourage you from moving forward.
  • Ending the process with Strengths gives you the burst of positivity to deal with what you’ve identified to be Weaknesses and Threats.  And, you may even find through the process that the strengths you’ve examined at the start of the exercise may not be as strong as you thought they were, or might find hidden strengths that no one had identified in the past!

Have you done one for your school yet? Maybe not – summer vacations and all, or maybe school just started for you, and you’re just getting things going for the current school year. If that’s the case, then set some time aside to “think” instead of just “do.” Remember, the mind cannot do both things at the same time! It could also be an exercise in creativity, since one of the ways to develop a creative solution is to move completely away from what you’re focused on at the present time.

If you’ve done your analysis, take some time this week to refine your SOWTS. Go through it – add, delete, flesh it out with some explanation and create narrative to describe the bullet points. Jot down resources that may be tapped to help take advantage of the opportunities.

Once you go through it, go through it again. Your goal is to create a narrative report for your first parent/board meeting this month relative to “The State of Your School.” Then, at that meeting, announce that at the next meeting, you want to provide a vision as to where the school needs to go. Request input from the board, and even some of your “raving fan” parents as to where they would like the school to be in five years. This is very important for those parents with children in the lower grades in an elementary school, so don’t be discouraged if you don’t get much participation from parents with children in the upper grades. Why? In five years, they won’t be there, and will be engaged with their next educational environment with their children. Remember, relative to parents from about 6th grade on up, you’re dealing with The ME Generation, whose members pay little attention if they are not immediately impacted.

After preparing your SOWTS analysis, you may find that you really don’t want to present such a report to the board or to parents.  This may be the year to engage the resources to work on crafting the vision.  Remember, however, that members of the board and raving fan parents need to be engaged in the mission and vision of the school so they can support it. If you are just wanting parents to drop their children off every day, pay their tuition, and become involved in fundraising, it’s not going to happen, and it’s not what visionary leadership is all about. Parents today need to see results, and schools need to publish those results. That’s the task of marketing – but we’re not there yet. At this point in the year, you’re not marketing for the 17-18 school year since it’s already underway.  You are now planning for 18-19…being aware of what’s going on this year, but focusing on where you want your school to go.

Until we get to that point, follow these five steps while refining your SOWTS analysis:

  • Pray
  • Listen
  • Reflect
  • Refine
  • Repeat As Necessary

© Michael V. Ziemski, SchoolAdvancement, 2006-2017