5 Powerful Tools for Quick Situation Analysis

Today’s leaders need to rapidly understand evolving situations. How can analytical tools help you make these assessments? By providing a structure to help you brainstorm and organize your thoughts in a relatively timely manner… which in turn provides the building blocks for better decision-making. While many of these tools are meant to provide in-depth assessments, they can also be used for more abbreviated uses, including “back of the envelope” type analysis when speed is important. Here are five tools that can be used to help you analyze a variety of situations.

Analytical tools are a staple of business. They are available to assist with everything from strategic planning to problem solving to communications planning. You can use these tools by yourself, as a team, or at an organizational level. They range from conceptual frameworks to highly structured models that include formal step by step processes. Here are five tools that give you a wide range of options:

1. People-Process-Technology/Tools (PPT): This is my personal favorite because of the simplicity and flexibility it offers. Originally, this framework was used to understand and maintain balance between those three dynamics in business situations, particularly with process design and reorganization… and typically related to technology impact. However, it also can be used quickly to frame up any number of things; for yourself, or when brainstorming with teams.

I add Financial to this to make it more robust. Hundreds of times, I’ve used this construct as a “white board” exercise. I’ve used it to understand the implications of a new client satisfaction initiative for my own teams, to prepare a recommendation about adopting a new technology, and with clients to help them work through potential organizational changes. It’s amazing what you can uncover with this exercise… including downstream impacts, important ancillary issues, and traps to avoid. And yes, I have literally done this on the back of an envelope in “emergency” situations, where I had less than 10 minutes to prepare. I wrote the situation (or question) at the top of the page or envelope, drew 4 swim lanes with category headings and jotted down some quick details. I went into the meeting better prepared and mentally more organized.

There have been numerous updated versions of this construct over the years. Here is some additional information on the original People Process Technology.

2. MOST: stands for Mission, Objectives, Strategy, Tactics. A lot of leaders have a hard time understanding (or, at least, explaining) how lofty mission statements become specific processes, actions steps or behaviors on the part of their team members. This powerful alignment tool helps you analyze how mission translates into action. It’s effective for both leadership teams and work groups alike. MOST helps refocus teams or business areas on organizational goals and better alignment from one level to the next. Again, while it’s an effective in-depth tool, it can be used to do a “quick study” of a situation. Here’s more on MOST.

3. STEEPLE: is primarily used as an external environmental scanning construct. The acronym stands for Social, Technological, Economic, Environmental, Political, Legal, Ethical. It helps you look, as an organization, at all these factors in a structured way to better understand the external forces impacting your organization. For example, what are the trends around emerging technologies that could force major changes in your business, like your own early adoption, service delivery models, or pricing implications? For more on STEEPLE.

4. The 5C Analysis model is used for marketing purposes. It helps you analyze both internal and external factors impacting your marketing decisions. 5C stands for Customers, Competitors, Company, Collaborators, Climate. This is usually meant for in-depth assessment and strategic planning. Each one of these factors has you focus on multiple sub-factors. For example, Customers looks at: market segments, customer requirements and demands, market size and growth, retail channel and information sources, buying process, consumer trends, etc. I haven’t used this approach, but I know that it can be highly effective for those taking a deep dive. For more on 5C Analysis.

5. McKinsey 7S Framework: This is the ultimate organizational alignment tool. It guides you through a process that to understand where seven key internal elements are in sync and where they’re not. This framework was originally developed by Tom Peters and Robert Waterman, who once worked for McKinsey. Terminology commonly used to discuss organizational dynamics has changed since then, but the basic construct is still very effective. It has been used for performance improvement, to aid strategy implementation, and for organizational change initiatives. The model is broken down into three Hard elements; Strategy, Structure, Systems, and Soft elements: Shared Values, Skills, Style and Staff. There’s a great Mind Tools article on how to use this model that includes worksheets.

I didn’t include tools like SWOT Analysis and Stakeholder Analysis because they’re very well-known and you’ve probably used one or both of them at some point in your careers. I also didn’t cover things like mind-mapping for similar reasons. However, the links above provide good explanations and tools.

For each of these analytical constructs, you can literally find dozens of sites that provide good content and supplementary tools for each of them. And there are many more analysis constructs to explore. Some people blend concepts or steps from one construct into another for a tool that better fits their unique business needs or analytical styles. Whether you use them to do in-depth assessment at an organizational level, a 10-minute “emergency” exercise, or anything in-between, you’ll develop a more thorough analysis of the situation at hand. And that typically leads to better decision-making.