Beloved SWOT analysis – Revised

The Business Diamond Framework™ (along with the 3i Methodology™) is a guide that helps practitioners know which tools to use, and when. The SWOT analysis is one of dozens of tools used in the Business Diamond Framework™.

Normally a single SWOT analysis might be applied to the entire business (or business unit). But with the Framework, a SWOT analysis is used slightly differently:

  • During the Insight stage, the SWOT analysis should be applied to each of the Function Diamonds (Leadership, Support, Value-Add, and To-Market).
  • Then, during the Innovation stage, the SWOT analysis is applied to each of the Function Diamonds again.

At first glance, this looks like a lot of work — four times as much! — but what practitioners end up with is a focused use of the tool; rather than asking “what are our business’ strengths?”, they end up asking far more focused questions: “what are the strengths of our leadership?” (or “what are the strengths of our support structure?” etc.). Practitioners may end up with a few more points in each of the SWOT sections (although not as many as you might first assume), and those data points will be far more effective than the broad (and perhaps more biased) observations from a general SWOT application.


  • I’ve found in practice that you end up creating a lot of content for the Strengths and Weaknesses portion of a SWOT during the Insight stage and a lot of content for the Opportunities and Threats portion of a SWOT during the Innovation stage.
  • A good starting place for more details about SWOT analysis:

  • You’re probably already familiar with the basic SWOT analysis, but some interesting data-visualization work has been done in SWOT analysis landscapes which you can start reading about here.
  • I have a theory that there is a Wiki for everything. Check out WikiSWOT.

Energy industry articles

aaronhoos_client_albertaoilAlberta Oil Magazine delivers news, analysis, and insight for Canada’s energy sector. I’ve had the privilege of writing a number of articles for them, on a variety of topics over the years.

The articles covered three main topics:

  • Analysis and forecast of OPEC’s pricing
  • Advertorials for oilfield companies
  • History of the oil industry


I wrote an article for them, in a 2005 issue, about OPEC was exploring the likelihood that oil would reach $50/barrel that year. Haha, $50/barrel oil seems almost laughable now.

InFocus: The Leadership Diamond

The Business Diamond Framework™ is made up of 4 “Function Diamonds” — the Leadership Diamond, the Support Diamond, the Value-Add Diamond, and the To-Market Diamond. In these “InFocus” blogs, I’ll choose an aspect of the Framework and talk about it in greater detail.

Today’s blog — the Leadership Diamond. Leadership is a broad category. In many businesses it represents some of the following factors:Executives and upper management, the values, vision, mission, and goals of the company, the driving force of stakeholders (and, more frequently, security holders).

Those are probably the ones you considered when you first encountered this Function Diamond. But there are others: There’s the attitude and the underlying flavor of the company. And this can be a powerful force, but also an invisible one. I think back to some of the places I worked when I was just entering the workforce. We had leadership from upper management, we had stated visions and values and missions, and the stakeholders (most frequently my direct reports and customers) provided some of the guidance that we might label leadership here. But when no one was looking, that’s when the real leadership appeared: The joker who magnetized the employees with his or her charisma; the attitudes of employees against upper management and customers; the real feelings and opinions about pay, benefits, and about the products or services we were selling.This is a leadership issue, believe it or not. Like an iceberg, this is unseen force can sink the ship.

So, how can the stated leadership overcome the unstated leadership?

Modeling values is huge and not done enough in many cases. (We’re seeing that right now in the economy where executives of struggling companies are laying people or crying doom but getting bonuses).

Unfortunately, modeling is not enough because there is a world apart between the upper management and the rest of the business.

Communicate. Employees want to feel like they are part of something bigger and upper management would do well to communicate with employees. Obviously, if things are rough, executives need to watch what they say and how they say it. But there are other opportunities to communicate and employees want to hear from their bosses… they just don’t want to hear the company rhetoric. Today’s leadership should be telling their organizations: “Here’s how we plan on keeping the company successful through the recession, and, more importantly, here’s how we plan to help you…”

Get back into the trenches. Without a doubt, everyone is a busy in their jobs, company leadership included. But a boss that comes down from his or her ivory tower from time to time and makes sales calls or deals with an upset client will truly model a company’s values in a way that a memo or a poster of company values could not. Yes, it might be an entire afternoon, but it would be an investment. And they would get the added benefit of seeing the day-to-day pressures that their employees face, which may have changed since they walked the floor in those lower positions.

Revisit the training. This is a problem area I see in businesses all the time. The training, which is supposed to be a step-by-step instruction of the best practices according to leadership, is often based on the best case scenarios. Unfortunately, it’s only when the worst case situations “hit the fan” that the true attitudes of the business (that invisible leadership quotient) comes out. I have yet to see employee training that talks about when ALL the lines are ringing and there’s a line-up of customers that stretches out the door. Sit down with upper management and tear apart the training. You will keep some of it, but you’ll have to revise it to include the worst-case scenario stuff.

Make sure managers have the pulse of their subordinates. They shouldn’t just create quarterly targets and know their department’s numbers, they need to know their people. They need to build professional and respectful relationships with their staff. They need to model and communicate. I’m not talking about creating a “one-big-happy-family” mentality; I’m talking about understanding who in the department is a strength and who is a liability.

Good leadership, in my opinion, is about selling to your employees the idea that they can receive job security and a paycheck by putting in 7.5 quality hours each day. (Well, that’s a start, but it needs to grow from there).

Managers: read Gitomer‘s The Sales Bible and think of your employees as your prospects. And, here’s a good link on management from Harvard Business Publishing you should read.

Business Diamond Framework: 3i Methodology introduction

On its own, the Business Diamond Framework™ is a useful concept to simplify, understand, and communicate a complex business. (Click to review a brief introduction).

However, it is incomplete without a specific methodology — the 3i Methodology™ — which applies the Framework to the business in three distinct stages that provide Insight, Innovation, and Implementation. Businesses progress from one stage to the next every time they apply the Framework to their business.


3i Stage One: Insight. In the Insight stage, the Framework practitioner applies a specific set of tools to analyze the business. The purpose is to move beyond mere “sorting” of varied business data but rather to push through to true insight to understand how the business functions.

3i Stage Two: Innovation. In the Innovation stage, the Framework practitioner applies a creativity-enabling toolset to the information discovered in the Insight stage to uncover risks that need to be mitigated and potential opportunities to act on. The outcome of this stage is a list of profitable growth innovations that can increase shareholder value and enhance the business’ competitiveness.

3i Stage Three: Implementation. In the Implementation Stage, the Framework practitioner applies a third set of tools that are designed to execute change. This may be done by communicating with and training staff to follow-through on the innovations developed in the previous stage, or it might include project management of the innovation to turn it into reality.

Business Diamond Framework: mapping the value chain

In a previous blog I wrote about the four Function Diamonds of the Business Diamond Framework™: Leadership, Support, Value-Add, and To-Market.

The layout of the Framework is intentional. This layout allows Framework practitioners to not only understand the business from the perspective of each of the four functions, but also from the perspective of the organizational structure and the value chain. This this blog, we’ll look at the value chain.

The horizontal axis represents the business’ value chain (a concept pioneered by Michael Porter of Harvard Business School). Raw materials and information begin on the left and move through the business until they are sold and distributed on the right. Here we see a very basic value chain…
… and the Framework practitioner’s job is to fill out the value chain in detail and then place it onto the Framework. Here we see it integrated into the Framework:
Here’s why this is important: Understanding the value chain is essential to running an efficient, competitive business. But understanding how the functions of the business interact with and contribute to the value chain is even more valuable. And there’s more you can do with the value chain in the Business Diamond Framework (and I’ll talk about that in an upcoming post).