Friday, 9 July 2010

Newsletter Issue 186, July 2010

Sam Young Newsletter

Issue 186, July 2010
Hi guys,
How long has it been since you looked long and hard at your business? Read all about it in All About SWOT below.
How many times are we prepared to admit to Being Dead Wrong? Perhaps we should more often.
Don't forget, if you want to be taken off my mailing list, click here to send me a reply e-mail and I will remove your name.

All About SWOT

How often have you reviewed how your business is going? When you have done that review, how have you structured it?
There are many ways of undertaking a strategic review, but in my opinion one of the best ways is by completing several smaller pieces of work:
  1. SWOT analysis
  2. Porter's Competitive Forces analysis
  3. Vision, Mission & Values review
  4. Previous strategic plan review
In this newsletter, we will examine the first component, the SWOT analysis.
Through the 1950s and 60s at Harvard and Stanford, academics researched large organisations' strategic fit between internal capacity & external possibilities. Researchers thought that organisations' actions could be better determined & prioritised if they first carefully analysed their internal strengths and weaknesses, and what opportunities and threats they could see in the external environment (often called the macro-environment, including the political spectrum, technology, economics, demographics, socio-cultural, legal etc).
In 1960 Stanford undertook a long range study for group of large US businesses, looking at why planning was often unsuccessful. Over nine years they interviewed 5000 managers in 1000 companies. Over that time, they found that the difference between what an organisation planned to do and what they actually accomplished was about 35%. The problem was not the management team's quality of information, but their ability to reach a committed agreement on constructive objectives rather than settling for feeble compromises.
The researchers then developed a simple management tool to better prepare businesses to meet their strategic planning needs:
  1. Brainstorm organisation’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities & threats
  2. Identify key issues
  3. Formulate strategies to meet key issues
  4. Prioritise key issues & strategies
  5. Implement strategies
  6. Monitor strategies
The SWOT analysis - an acronym for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats - was created to assist decisions about what is positive and negative about a business' present and future. The researcher's hypothesis was that after identifying SWOT, business actions could be better determined & prioritised. This would lead to better business plan:actual.
The modern SWOT analysis is used as a business tool to analyse where an organisation is currently, where it needs to go, and to get agreed goals in order to get the organisation to where it needs to go.
The major failings of businesses when completing SWOT analyses is that they do point 1 (look at strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats), but then don't do the remaining 5 points.
Businesses should complete one full SWOT analysis each planning cycle - usually annually. Remember that a lot can change in a year!
If you need a hand to complete a SWOT, contact me on

Being Dead Wrong

Sir Terry Pratchett writes satire, viewing our 'round world' through the lens of his Science Fantasy creation, "Discworld". If you like clever, multi-layered social commentary, take a drive by one of his escapist books sometime. Any of "Mort", "Hogfather" or "Guards, Guards" would be a good place to start amongst his forty-odd novels.
In a recent article, published by the Daily Mail in the UK, Terry Pratchett briefly answered a range of questions on his life and philosophy. Interestingly, it was his last comment that I found most thought provoking:
"Always keep at the back of your mind the possibility that you're dead wrong. It came home to me once - I was on a train, by myself, going up to Glasgow. A guy got in with a six-pack and a shell suit; he was big, uncouth-looking and probably a bit drunk. I had this sudden flash in which the train had had an accident, a crash, and there was this guy pulling ragged metal off me. I think that was my remembering one of the big London rail crashes - I remembered people going in, helping each other out. It showed the real commonality of mankind. And that sometimes happens, and when it does it's a wonderful thing."
Just imagine the difference in attitude that revelation would make to how any of us would have approached that burly, rough, overalled man. And the difference in response that our approach would make to us in return.
We are so quick to judge; and while treating everyone as a fellow traveller on our human journey poses some inherent risks, I rather suspect it provokes less risk than blind prejudice.
To think carefully about how we approach everyone and try to get rid of blind prejudice; second guess yourself, every second of every day!

Excel "not in a recognizable format" Error

Now this is a tricky little glitch that I came across recently, a tiny, tiny thing which just about drove me spare until I found a fix for it.
I had several unexpected and sudden power downs with my PC; usually while I had several files open. Unfortunately Excel had a bit of a hissy, and after the power problem was resolved, the Excel problem was still with me.
Each time I would open Excel, I got a message stating "this file is not in a recognizable format" and a blank Excel sheet "89517000" would open.
The problem was that I had a file specified in the "alternative startup location" so that each time I opened Excel, my hour log file would open. For some reason during my power offs, this location corrupted. So to fix it:
  1. Start Excel, and then quickly hold down the SHIFT key (holding down the SHIFT key prevents Excel from opening any of the files in the alternate startup file location)
  2. Once Microsoft Excel has started, release the SHIFT key
  3. On the Tools menu, click Options | General tab | clear the Alternate startup file location box | click OK
  4. Exit & restart Excel. The error will not recur.
  5. Restore your Alternate startup location after you have shut down & restarted your PC.

TLAs for SMEs

Here are this newsletter's TLAs (Three Letter Acronyms) for you:
  • MFC, Michael Fowler Centre in Wellington. This one tripped me up in a recent email, about where a function was to be held!
  • SAHP, Stay At Home Parent. Boy, does this mean the world has changed since 1970! Fancy needing an abbreviation to define that a parent stays at home :-)
Please feel free to email me with any TLAs that you want to get the bottom (meaning!) of.

Tips, Short+Hot Keys
Many of us use the back button on a web browser; but were you aware that there is a shortcut?
  • Alt & left arrow will take you back a page instead.

Hot Linx
Our Land Transport NZ seem to have some fixed ideas about ads needing to be graphic to have impact. For a fantastic reminder about wearing seatbelts when driving, check out the much more positive approach that the UK takes at
Check out the new movie trailer from Chris Morris' new film, "Four Lions" at This is SUCH a non-PC topic, but apparently is a comedy. It will definitely push the envelope.
And some of Terry Pratchett's early children's stories have been lifted from the annals of newsprint and onto the interweb; go to to read more.
Very interesting little website with a load of interesting facts about acronyms in popular culture. I liked the music ones. Go to

                                Catch you again soon!! E-mail your suggestions to me here

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