New SWOT Analysis & Strategic Alignment Workshop Guide

Strategic alignment is the act of identifying and aligning a company’s unique and valuable capabilities with growing market opportunities. With the help of this guide and its associated SWOT analysis tools, your company can accomplish the equivalent of two to three months’ worth of strategic planning and alignment in just two days.

How to Achieve Strategic Alignment

To achieve strategic alignment, the CEO and Leadership Team work together to identify the right three-year Top-Level Strategic Imperatives and short-term key results needed to achieve them. This top-level strategy must then be cascaded into the rest of the organization so that it can be implemented rapidly.

For superior strategic alignment, this process should be conducted during an offsite strategic planning session, which lasts up to two days. Before this workshop, a new form of SWOT analysis is performed via team surveys, and participants become familiar with a framework and language for discussing strategy.

During the workshop, the results of the team surveys are used to generate shared insights and alignment on: (1) areas of improvement in the company; (2) the company’s lifecycle stage; (3) the company’s strategic execution risks; and (4) the go-forward strategic priorities.

At the end of this strategic alignment process, you will have generated a clear, concrete, and actionable roadmap for strategic execution that can be communicated to the entire company.

How to Conduct an Improved SWOT Analysis

A key part of an effective strategic alignment process is to build shared consciousness around the company’s current strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT Analysis). However, if you have run a SWOT analysis before, you may have found that the outputs were not as useful as you would have liked. The “data” ends up being bullet points. The “insights” don’t reveal the root cause. The process itself generates a lot of opinions but it can feel harder than it should be to align the team on concrete action steps based on a traditional SWOT analysis alone.

Organizational Physics has solved these shortcommings of a traditional SWOT analysis with a new, two-step SWOT analysis. The Entropy Survey is the first step which provides a root cause analysis of a company’s internal strengths and weaknesses. A company’s external opportunities and threats are then determined using the Top-level OKRs Strategy Survey.

By combining these two tools, you can produce an extremely useful SWOT analysis in a fraction of the time and with far greater insights than a traditional SWOT analysis. Some additional advantages of this new form of SWOT analysis include:

  1.  It allows for better and faster data gathering.
  2.  It provides powerful mental models for your team to visualize its strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.
  3.  It identifies the root cause of problems so that you and your team can drive continuous improvement against the right (and evolving) business strategy.

Watch these two videos below to learn more about this new approach to SWOT analysis. Then keep reading to see how the strategic alignment workshop brings everything together.

Elevating the SWOT Analysis: Part 1 of 2

Using the Entropy Survey, the team identifies the company’s current strengths and weaknesses, along with a root cause analysis to resolve its biggest operational inefficiencies. Compared to traditional SWOT analyses, the automated report generation saves a great deal of time and provides a great deal more insight.

Elevating the SWOT Analysis: Part 2 of 2

Using the Top-Level OKRs Strategy survey, the team next identifies its stage-dependent strategy, including the top-level Strategic Imperatives and annual goals. Automated reporting detects potential strategic execution risks, helping the team to avoid strategic mistakes.

The Benefits of This Approach to Strategic Alignment

As a result of this approach to strategic planning and alignment, both short-term and long-term breakthroughs are possible. Having facilitated this approach to strategic alignment several hundred times, I can say that it is the equivalent of two to three months’ worth of strategic planning and alignment compressed into just two days. In addition, it significantly improves the quality of decision making and the alignment of the team around implementing those decisions.

Below is a step-by-step strategic alignment workshop facilitator guide to help you achieve similar results using these tools…

The Strategic Alignment Workshop Facilitator Guide

Who Should Read This Guide

Two people in your company should read the following guide:

  1. The head of the company or business unit (CEO), who is the client of this workshop, and
  2. The designated workshop Facilitator, for whom this guide is written.

The CEO should not also be the Facilitator. The Facilitator and the CEO are two distinct roles that should be played by two people. Note that the Facilitator may or may not be a part of the Leadership Team. The CEO should read this guide to become familiar with the overall process. The Facilitator should read this guide and then actually use it as a roadmap and checklist to run a successful Strategic Alignment Workshop for the CEO and Leadership Team.

Who Should Attend the Workshop

The workshop participants should be the CEO and the Leadership Team. If there are other key high-level influencers in the company, the CEO should consider whether they should be present as well. Each core function in the company should be represented by one participant.The number of participants is usually 12 to 15. The basic idea behind this mix of participants is simple. If this cross-functional group of leaders goes through a well-designed process together, they can more easily recognize and agree on the best course of action for the whole company. Additionally, because of their shared participation and insights, they can also now articulate to their teams why that course of action is the right one. In essence, when the heads are clear and committed, the rest of the organizational body will follow.

In-Person Versus Virtual Settings

I recommend holding this workshop in person at an off-site location away from the regular office environment. However, if you need to facilitate a virtual workshop, you can replicate my instructions for a virtual setting.

How To Use This Guide

This is a guide, not a book, so you should use it as one. You should view this guide as your roadmap for preparing for the workshop and for ensuring proper follow up afterward. Print it out. Make sure you follow the steps in order. Check them off as you go.

Pre-Workshop Checklist

Six Weeks Prior to the Workshop

The first steps include arranging workshop logistics and meeting with the CEO to align on the workshop objectives and process. Here are your key tasks at this stage:

  • Set Dates. Schedule the workshop over two days, or approximately 12 hours not including lunches and travel time. If you need to hold this as a virtual session, you can split the workshop into three 4-hour sessions in order to minimize Zoom fatigue.
  • Clarify Purpose & Objectives. Privately ask the CEO to describe the purpose or the need for this workshop. Ask them what are the top 1 to 2 things that must happen, or that must be improved in the company as a result of this workshop. Write their answers down so that you can track the workshop results to those objectives.
  • Identify Attendees. The CEO selects 7 to 13 influential leaders who will attend the workshop along with you and the CEO. As I mentioned earlier, you’ll want to have leaders representing all key functions of the business.
  • Delegate Logistics.The CEO should assign an internal company resource, usually their administrative assistant, to:
    • Find and reserve a suitable off-site location
    • Coordinate group travel, lodging, and meals
    • Order copies of the book Organizational Physics by Lex Sisney for all attendees, to be distributed no less than one month before the workshop
    • See Workshop Schedule and Room Setup Requirements for additional details and send the room setup requirements to the venue.
  • Send Invitation. The CEO should send an invitation to the attendees to reserve the dates and explain the purpose and objectives of the workshop. The CEO should also inform attendees that they will be asked to complete some homework before the workshop, including reading Parts I through III ofOrganizational Physics, which they will receive shortly.
  • Create an Organizational Physics Membership Account. Go to to create a free or paid Organizational Physics membership account. You will need this account in order to prepare your tools for the workshop.
  • Read to Teach. You and the CEO should read all of Organizational Physics and watch the OP 101 tutorials with sufficient focus to be able to teach the concepts of entropy, PSIU, lifecycle strategy, and the physics of fast execution.
  • Prepare Your Tools. In preparation for the workshop, you prepare, but do not yet send to the group, one or more surveys and assessment tools based on the purpose and objectives of the workshop.
    Prepare to send to all participants:
    • PSIU Assessment. Participants should take the PSIU Individual Assessment and read their report in order to understand the basics of the PSIU model before attending the workshop.
    • Entropy Survey. This survey (part 1 of the SWOT Analysis) determines the internal friction points of the company and provides key information that you will use to structure the workshop.
    • Top-Level OKRs Survey. This survey (part 2 of the SWOT Analysis) assesses the company’s current lifecycle stage and its strategic execution risks and provides key information that you will also use to structure the workshop.
    If needed, prepare to send the following to the CEO and their right hand:
    • Company Core Survey. The CEO and his or her right hand should complete this survey if the team is unclear on the company’s vision, values, or core identity.
    • Targets & KPIs Survey. The CEO and CFO should complete this survey if the team is unclear about numerical targets and milestones for the next 1 to 3 years.
How to Prepare Your Tools

To prepare a given tool, log into your Organizational Physics Members Area. At the top, click on the appropriate tab (for example, “Entropy Survey”), and then click on “Add New Survey.” Follow the steps from there.

Three Weeks Prior to the Workshop

  • Send the Homework Assignments. Attendees receive their homework assignments from you via email. Space out the assignments so that attendees can complete one or two items per week. Stress the importance of getting high-quality input from the team. Make the final deadline 72 hours before the workshop starts so that you and the CEO have time to read the results and prepare for the workshop.

Seventy-Two Hours Prior to the Workshop

  • Close all surveys. In order to generate a PDF report of a survey, you must first close that survey. Before closing a survey, ensure that all responses have been collected.
  • Email CEO. Send the CEO a PDF copy of the reports.
  • Print Reports. Print two copies of each survey report. One is for you to read and make notes. The other is to use for handouts during the workshop.
  • Read the Reports. You and the CEO should read and digest the survey reports separately. You can optionally send the reports to the attendees to also read and digest.
  • Summarize the Reports. Using the survey data, create your draft of what seems to be the key theme and key questions. This is a summary of what the data appears to be telling you and it will guide the workshop agenda. See Key Themes and Key Questions examples.
  • Prepare Your Working Doc. Make a copy of the Strategic Alignment Working Doc and use this to prepare your own working doc for the workshop. The entire workshop runs off of this doc so it is important to familiarize yourself with it and to be well prepared.
  • Prepare with the CEO. After the working doc is created, review the key theme and key questions that you have identified and the overall agenda with the CEO. The CEO should also prepare his or her welcome remarks and familiarize themselves with the 3Ps, which will be the workshop ground rules.
  • Prepare Your Slides. As you view the OP 101 slides, determine which ones will be helpful for you to present during the workshop in order to communicate key concepts.
  • Prepare Your Materials. Procure the recommended materials listed in the Workshop Schedule and Room Setup Requirements.
How to Create a PDF Survey Report

To close a given survey and read the report, log into your Organizational Physics Members Area, click on the appropriate tool tab (for example, “Entropy Survey”), change the survey status to “Closed,” then click “View” to view, and download the report.

Twelve Hours Prior to the Workshop

  • Set Up the Room. If this is an in-person workshop, there is a particular room configuration that I strongly recommend, which can be found in Workshop Schedule and Room Setup Requirements. The evening before the workshop, you should ensure that the room is set up appropriately.

During the Workshop

Using your prepared working doc, you will guide the group through the following six steps in sequence:

Recommended Time Allocation

As you can see in the image above, the majority of your workshop time is spent in steps 1 to 3. Why is this? Because if you do steps 1 to 3 well, steps 4 to 6 are easy to accomplish. If, on the other hand, you short-change steps 1 to 3, you will find that steps 4 to 6 are very hard to accomplish.Basically, it is quite easy to align on the right decisions if you can ensure that the group has done an adequate job at generating shared insights before attempting to make the decisions. In other words, you need to slow down to go fast.With years of experience, I am able to run this workshop in 1.5 days. You may want to give yourself more time at first, so I am suggesting that you budget 2 days for the workshop.

At a minimum, I recommend that you run 75-minute sessions with 15-minute breaks and a 45-minute lunch.

A detailed workshop schedule and room set up requirements can be accessed in the Workshop Schedule and Room Setup Requirements document.

Run Your Working Doc

As Facilitator, you are going to run the entire workshop using your prepared working doc (see above). Follow each step in sequence and you should facilitate a great outcome.

Post-Workshop Checklist

After the workshop, you should take the following steps:

  • Debrief with the CEO.
    • Hear from the CEO on what they felt went well and what can be improved for the following year’s strategic alignment session.
    • Share any additional observations that you, as the Facilitator, have made about the team dynamics, process, and outcomes.
    • Clarify next steps from the workshop Action Plan.
  • Follow Up with Attendees. Send the attendees the confirmed Action Plan and OKRs created during the workshop. You may also include a summary of the workshop.

Congratulations! Your job as Facilitator is done. It is now up to the CEO and the Leadership Team to communicate the results of this process with the rest of the company and drive the strategy forward.

What Other CEOs Are Saying About this Approach to Strategic Alignment

Numerous CEOs have already benefited from Organizational Physic’s approach to strategic alignment. Here’s what some of them have to say:

“A year on after the Organizational Physics Strategic [planning process], we have managed to achieve our ambitious goals and employee engagement within the business is equally high. Between finding the book, connecting with the author and now having a coach engaged on the growth stages of the company, our time with Lex comfortably goes down as the best investment we have made during our transition into scale at Yoco.”
– Katlego Maphai, Co-founder & CEO, Yoco

“In my opinion, the effectiveness of a framework is dependent on its ability to endure long after the facilitator is gone. The principles Lex has developed not only endure; they’ve become self-reinforcing. And the tools and mental models that I’ve picked up working with Lex will be permanent fixtures in my toolbox. Form follows function is a “sticky” idea that Lex brings to life like no other. And it helps that he’s a great guy who’s fun to work with!”
– Daniel Needham, President and Chief Investment Officer, Morningstar Investment Management

“Lex offers great strategic guidance and an outside perspective that helped move my organization to the next level. Lex led an executive team offsite for my company and also worked with me in advance to help guide me in refining my vision and goals for the company. During the offsite, the team was given the opportunity to assess our current competitive, operational, innovative and financial situation. It was a safe place for them to voice their opinions and an unusual chance for me to hear candid input. From there, the team worked together, with the help of Lex’s well thought out process, to decide what our priorities would be moving forward. We also created a new structure, metrics, and an improved decision making process. The result was a plan that was clear and the team was committed to making it happen. We did it again a year later to hone our skills and further build our team. The model works! The company has since grown more than 30% and our culture has never been stronger.”
– Jean Thompson, CEO, Seattle Chocolates

“The Organizational Physics [strategic planning toolkit]… helped me to understand how to match our product with the right customers and the right internal resources. This enabled me to build consensus at a challenging time, while winning some key deals through a product repositioning… I will always keep Lex’s tools in my toolkit.”
– Ed Stevens, CEO, Shopatron

“The Entropy Survey is a revolutionary change. Not simply an incremental move but a massive transformative change over the traditional SWOT Analysis. Automated reporting provides a comprehensive, professional record of each individual and team response by area. This is accompanied by easy to read and compelling graphics. The number of hours saved (due to automation), the professional presentation, and the ability to facilitate a compelling and impactful workshop toward proper priorities is fantastic. I recommend it to every facilitator and coach seeking to assist their client(s) through clear, concise and impactful planning. The Entropy Survey is like the smartphone. How did we ever get along without it?”
– Paul Cronin, Managing Director, Cornerstone3 Inc.

“Know what your strategic imperatives are and stay focused on them like a drumbeat under everything. [Using the Strategy Map]… have an offsite strategy meeting once per year to review the imperatives and keep them fresh.”
– Tami Simon, Founder & CEO, Sounds True

Get Your Tools

If you haven’t already, you can register below for the Designed to Scale Membership program and access all of the strategic alignment tools detailed in this guide for free for 30 days. With their first-principles approach and proven track record of scaling up hundreds of companies, these tools can quickly transform your strategic planning and alignment process. Register below to take them for a test drive (new members only).