The story we heard wasn’t unfamiliar or inspiring. A client called saying they suspected a group of employees had been stealing from them for about a decade and they finally caught one employee in the act of stealing a week ago…and fired him on the spot. Then they sat down the three other suspects individually, told them they just fired the first employee and asked them if they were also stealing. Not surprisingly all three employees answered “No” and were immediately sent back to work. Now the client wanted us to interview these three employees in an attempt to learn the truth. The odds were certainly not in our favor.
The SWOT analysis has permeated business planning, and reinforced biases since the 1960’s. Credit for creating the SWOT analysis process is often debated and usually prescribed to Albert Humphrey from Stanford University. He arrived at this famous acronym while researching why business planning often failed. His creation has certainly helped millions of people develop strategies over the last half a century.
This process is more effective when it is inverted. A SWOT analysis it typically starts with identifying an organizations strengths, then pinpointing weaknesses before diagnosing likely threats and finally determining potential opportunities. Essentially this process encourages teams to self-identify strengths and use those strengths to avoid weaknesses and threats in order to achieve pre-determined opportunities. When executed in this manner, the SWOT process is solely focused on the planner’s perspective and limits the scope of what they can achieve.
“Strengths” are luxuries Certified Forensic Interviewers (CFI’s) are rarely presented with. Their typical investigations are astonishingly similar. These investigations have typically been open for months, involve multiple suspects who have denied any guilt or knowledge in previous interviews, produce no evidence and likely include previous investigative missteps. These factors force CFI’s to forego the typical SWOT approach and execute a WTSO approach to prepare for their interviews.
A cornerstone concept of many negotiation, leadership, and interviewing strategies is “don’t lead with your strengths, lead to your strengths”. The WTSO analysis forces interviewers and executives into this mindset. The process starts by considering potential weaknesses and threats. This immediately focuses strategists on their counterpart’s perspective, limits biases, and illuminates reasons why any plan may not work. These weaknesses and threats are then leveraged in the third and fourth steps to identify alternatives for increasing the perception of any existing strengths and capitalizing on these perceptions to create new opportunities that may not have been previously available.
Applying the WTSO analysis in this investigation quickly highlighted our challenges. All three suspects knew the details of the investigation, a co-worker had been fired, they were suspected of stealing, and was no evidence because they all went back to work. We chose to use these weaknesses to increase the perception of our strengths by creating an opportunity for the subjects to consider that the employee getting fired for stealing wasn’t the start of the investigation, it was actually the beginning of the end of the investigation. Thankfully this approach worked. It wasn’t a clean sweep across all three suspects, but we did receive theft admissions as well as additional names of other customers and employees who were involved.
The WTSO analysis starts with one simple question: “Why shouldn’t they?” The executive may ask “Why shouldn’t they buy in?” or “Why shouldn’t they partner with us?” or “Why shouldn’t they want to do this job?” The sales professional may ask “Why shouldn’t they buy this?” The negotiator may ask “Why shouldn’t they agree to this?” The interviewer may ask “Why shouldn’t they tell me the truth?” Answering these questions first forces strategists to consider their counterparts’ perspectives, increase the perception of their strengths and develop new reasons why their counterparts “should” help them achieve their goals.
Michael Reddington, CFI is an executive resource, the president of InQuasive, Inc. and the creator of the Disciplined Listening Method. He teaches leaders from all industries and specialties how to apply strategic, ethical persuasion techniques in all of their conversations. To learn more contact Michael directly at +1 (704) 256-7116 or firstname.lastname@example.org.