The TOWS matrix: Definition and applications

The TOWS Matrix: Definition and Applications

The TOWS matrix is a variant of the SWOT matrix. It is an analytical tool used for examining the external and internal situations of an organization, a particular project, product or service, team or group, or an individual. Hence, similar with a SWOT analysis, a TOWS analysis involves identifying and defining the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, as well as formulating specific strategies around these four general elements.

Difference between TOWS and SWOT

Remember that a TOWS analysis is just a variant a SWOT analysis. However, this analytical tool requires examining first external situations, especially the threats and opportunities, before examining internal situations by identifying weaknesses and strengths. TOWS is just a backward approach to SWOT.

It is worth reiterating that a TOWS analysis puts emphasis on the external environment while a SWOT focuses on the internal environment. For some strategists and planners, analyzing threats and opportunities first can be more productive especially if strengths and weaknesses are already predefined during previous analyses.

The elements of a TOWS matrix

Central to a TOWS analysis is the development of a TOWS matrix that not only lists down the threats, opportunities, weaknesses, and strengths, but also cross-examines these four general elements to come up with strategies aimed at minimizing threats and maximizing opportunities.

Take note of the following specific elements of a TOWS matrix:

1. Strengths-Opportunities Strategies: SO strategies or maxi-maxi strategies involve the use of strengths to maximize strengths.

2. Weaknesses-Opportunities Strategies: WO strategies or mini-maxi strategies involve minimizing weaknesses by taking advantage of opportunities,

3. Strengths-Threats Strategies: ST strategies or maxi-mini strategies involve using strengths to minimize threats.

4. Weaknesses-Threats Strategies: WT strategies or mini-mini strategies involve minimizing weaknesses and avoiding threats.

Using the TOWS matrix

Based on the elements of the TOWS matrix mentioned above, the actual process of TOWS analysis does not only involve listing down the facts concerning the external and internal environments or situations and putting them inside a quadrant.

The goal of TOWS analysis and TOWS matrix is to compare or cross-examine threats and opportunities against strengths and weaknesses. This examination is undertaken to identify strategies for minimizing and managing threats, as well as for maximizing and capitalizing on opportunities.

However, it is important to remember that similar with a SWOT analysis, TOWS is not a direct and standalone strategic process. Instead, it is an analytical tool used for generalized external and situational situational analysis, especially a tool for facilitating critical and reflective thinking and brainstorming or exchanging of ideas among decision-makers. TOWS analysis also shares the advantages and disadvantages of a SWOT analysis.