How to Use the TOWS Matrix in Business

The TOWS Matrix is derived from the SWOT Analysis tool but requires more complex analysis.
The TOWS Matrix is derived from the SWOT Analysis tool but requires more complex analysis. (Image: Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images)

The TOWS Matrix is an analysis tool used to assess a business’ external threats, external opportunities, internal weaknesses and internal strengths, hence the acronym TOWS. When complete, the user will have multiple strategies to maximize or minimize the aforementioned internal and external factors. The TOWS matrix can be used in any type of business or industry, as well as for a piece of a business or a project, as long as clear factors are defined. The completed TOWS matrix will serve as an outline to improve your business.

Draw a large grid on a piece of paper with three rows and three columns forming nine cells. Leave enough room in each cell for four or five short sentences.

Label all factor cells. Starting in the first row, label the second cell "Internal Strengths" and label the third cell "Internal Weaknesses." Starting in the first column, label the second cell "External Opportunities" and label the third cell "External Threats."

List a short description of the most relevant internal and external factors in the corresponding cells. Classify at least two factors and use an equal number of factors in each section.

Label all strategy cells. Starting in the second row, label the second cell"‘Strengths/Opportunities" and label the third cell "Weaknesses/Opportunities." In the third row, label the second cell "Strengths/Threats" and label the third cell "Weaknesses/Threats."

List the strategy action points. In each of the four strategy cells, create strategies that address the listed factors relevant to the particular cell. For example, in the "Strengths/Opportunities" cell, create strategies that combine strengths and opportunities previously listed in the factor cells.

Expand on the strategies before implementing them by thoroughly analyzing your strategies to ensure that they are financially or operationally feasible. Use the completed matrix as a guide to create new ideas, address internal and external factors, and as a tool to keep your business successful.

Tips & Warnings

  • It's better to list too much information than not enough in the factors and strategy sections. You can eliminate factors or strategies rather than having to start over because not enough information was considered.
  • Strategies should maximize strengths and opportunities and minimize weaknesses and threats.
  • Prioritize strategy items based on urgency or resources available instead of trying to address all strategy items at one time.
  • Complete the research on factors directly affecting your business before starting the matrix. Your strategies will not be relevant if incorrect items are listed as factors.

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