Tows Matrix Analysis Meaning, Template and Examples

Different arrangements for the same words– Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats – the SWOT/TOWS analysis framework explores internal and external forces that influence your business

TOWS Matrix - TOWS Analysis
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In the business environment, organizations face challenges and opportunities. Navigating through this complexity requires a strategic approach that integrates internal strengths and weaknesses with external threats and opportunities. This is where the TOWS Matrix comes into play, offering a powerful framework for strategic analysis and decision-making.

In strategic management, the TOWS Matrix holds immense significance as a tool for strategic planning and formulation. It goes beyond the traditional SWOT analysis by not only identifying internal strengths and weaknesses but also by correlating them with external opportunities and threats. By doing so, organizations can uncover unique insights and develop tailored strategies to capitalize on strengths, mitigate weaknesses, exploit opportunities, and counter threats.

At Digital Leadership, we recognize the pivotal role of strategic analysis in driving organizational success. As a digital strategy execution firm, we are committed to empowering businesses to thrive amidst digital disruption. Integrating the TOWS Matrix into our services amplifies our ability to facilitate strategic decision-making and drive impactful transformations. By leveraging our innovation consulting services and digital transformation expertise, organizations can harness the full potential of the TOWS Matrix to unlock new opportunities, mitigate risks, and achieve sustainable growth.

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What is TOWS Matrix?

The TOWS Matrix, developed by Heinz Weihrich in 1999, is a strategic planning tool that combines internal and external factors to generate strategic options. This approach was then popularized by Albert Humphrey, a consultant at the Stanford Research Institute. It stands for Threats, Opportunities, Weaknesses, and Strengths, forming a matrix that guides strategic analysis and decision-making. A TOWS matrix analysis, similar to SWOT but a bit different, looks at the outside world first—what could help or hurt your business? Then, it matches these external factors with what you’re good at and what you’re not so good at inside your company. This helps you figure out how to make the most of your strengths, deal with your weaknesses, grab opportunities, and handle threats, like connecting the dots between what’s happening around you and what’s happening in your business. It involves a systematic evaluation of:

  1. Threats: External factors that could hinder the organization’s success.
  2. Opportunities: External factors that could benefit the organization.
  3. Weaknesses: Internal factors that may impede progress.
  4. Strengths: Internal factors that give the organization a competitive edge.

For example, consider a tech startup assessing market competition (threats), identifying emerging technologies (opportunities), addressing limited resources (weaknesses), and leveraging innovative solutions (strengths) through a TOWS analysis to formulate strategic decisions. This structured approach facilitates informed decision-making and proactive strategic planning, driving sustainable growth and success. Now let’s break down the TOWS analysis components for strategic decision-making

TOWS Matrix - TOWS Analysis
The UNITE TOWS Analysis – Building on the SWOT Analysis
First published in 1965 by 3x colleagues from the Stanford Research Institute. Designed by: Digital Leadership AG

1- Understand Threats That Affect Company’s Success

Identifying threats is the first step in the TOWS Matrix analysis. Organizations must systematically analyze external factors that pose risks or challenges to their success. This may include market disruptions, regulatory changes, competitive pressures, or technological advancements. By understanding potential threats, organizations can proactively devise strategies to mitigate risks and safeguard their competitive position.

2- Identify Business Opportunities in TOWS Matrix Template

In parallel with threats, organizations should identify external opportunities that can be leveraged to their advantage. These opportunities may arise from emerging market trends, changing consumer preferences, technological innovations, or strategic partnerships. By identifying and capitalizing on opportunities, organizations can position themselves for growth and competitive advantage.

When exploring opportunities for your company, it’s essential to consider external factors that could positively impact your business goals. Here’s how to identify them:

  • What external resources or trends could potentially benefit your company?
  • What strategies could facilitate your company’s growth in the near future?
  • Have you explored opportunities to expand into new markets? Even if your current market isn’t yielding optimal results, exploring alternative markets could lead to significant breakthroughs.
  • What are your customers demanding? Consider developing new products, features, or services to meet their evolving needs.
  • Are there any potential partnerships that could amplify your company’s impact?

For instance, tapping into emerging markets or leveraging technological advancements could present significant opportunities for growth. Another example could involve strategic collaborations with complementary businesses or industries to enhance your offerings and market reach. Identifying and capitalizing on these opportunities can propel your company towards greater success and innovation.

3- Determine Your Weaknesses in TOWS Matrix Template

Internal weaknesses represent areas where organizations may be lacking in resources, capabilities, or competitive advantages. These weaknesses can hinder organizational performance and impede strategic objectives. Through honest self-assessment and introspection, organizations can identify areas for improvement and development.

4- Identify Business Strengths in TOWS Matrix Template

Internal strengths encompass the core competencies, resources, and capabilities that give organizations a competitive edge. These strengths may include brand reputation, technological expertise, a talented workforce, or robust financial resources. By identifying and leveraging strengths, organizations can capitalize on opportunities and mitigate weaknesses effectively. Your company’s strengths lie in the internal factors that give you an edge. Consider the following to identify them:

  • What makes your service the top choice for meeting consumer needs?
  • What distinctive features or capabilities differentiate your company from competitors?
  • Can you articulate your competitive advantage clearly? Utilize Xtensio’s competitive analysis template for guidance.
  • What valuable assets does your company possess, such as proprietary technology or specialized expertise?
  • Can you pinpoint aspects of your company that customers highly value, like exceptional customer service or product quality?
  • Which features significantly contribute to your company’s overall impact, such as innovative design or sustainable practices?

For instance, exceptional customer service, innovative technology solutions, or a strong brand reputation could be notable examples of your company’s strengths. These attributes not only distinguish your business from others but also contribute to its success and customer satisfaction.

In strategic planning, the TOWS Matrix offers four distinct strategic approaches that companies can adopt to align internal strengths and weaknesses with external opportunities and threats. Here’s a breakdown of each strategy:

  • SO: How can you use your strengths to take full advantage of market opportunities?
  • ST: How can you use your strengths to deal with market threats?
  • WO: How can you use market opportunities to overcome weaknesses?
  • WT: How can you deal with market threats and minimize weaknesses?

Maxi-Maxi Strategies (SO):

These strategies use your strengths to seize market opportunities effectively. For example, using your trusted brand and large production capacity to introduce new products like 85% cocoa chocolate, filling a gap in the market and outdoing competitors.

Maxi-Mini Strategies (ST):

These strategies use your strengths to tackle market threats. For instance, using your strong budget and brand loyalty to counter a competitor’s new product launch by introducing innovative variations, such as a white chocolate egg with raspberry.

Mini-Maxi Strategies (WO):

These strategies use market opportunities to fix internal weaknesses. For example, addressing high production costs and export challenges by acquiring a company in France with modern facilities and EU access, which also helps grow the business.

Mini-Mini Strategies (WT):

These strategies aim to tackle both external threats and internal weaknesses. In severe cases, this might mean closing the business or merging with another chocolate firm. But it’s best to focus on SO, ST, and WO strategies to avoid relying too much on Mini-Mini ones.

How TOWS Matrix Differs From SWOT Analysis


The fundamental difference between SWOT and TOWS lies in their approach to analyzing internal and external factors and how they interrelate. While SWOT focuses on listing strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats independently, TOWS examines the connections between these factors and how they influence one another.

SWOT Analaysis Template
The UNITE SWOT Framework
First Published in 1965 by 3x colleagues from the Stanford Research Institue. Designed by: Digital Leadership AG

The TOWS Matrix helps organizations take advantage of opportunities and develop strategic initiatives by systematically analyzing their internal strengths and weaknesses alongside external opportunities and threats. As an acronym for “Threats, Opportunities, Weaknesses, and Strengths,” it empowers businesses to take action based on a comprehensive understanding of their strategic landscape. By identifying strengths-opportunities, weaknesses-opportunities, strengths-threats, and weaknesses-threats, companies can craft targeted strategies to optimize their distribution channels, capitalize on their strengths, and mitigate potential risks. This proactive approach enables organizations to make informed decisions, adapt to market dynamics, and stay ahead of the competition.

Here’s a breakdown of how TOWS works:

  1. Strengths to Opportunities (S-O): Explores how a company can leverage its strengths to capitalize on potential opportunities in the market.
  2. Strengths to Threats (S-T): Considers how strengths can be utilized to mitigate or counteract threats to the business, and in some cases, how threats can be turned into opportunities.
  3. Weaknesses to Opportunities (W-O): Evaluates how opportunities can help alleviate or address weaknesses within the organization.
  4. Weaknesses to Threats (W-T): Examines how weaknesses may exacerbate or contribute to the threats faced by the business.

TOWS is more action-oriented compared to SWOT, providing a framework for decision-makers to formulate strategies based on their analysis. It helps in building on strengths, addressing weaknesses, seizing opportunities, and managing threats effectively.

In a workplace setting, the TOWS matrix can be applied by any type of business to develop both short-term and long-term strategies. By understanding the relationships between internal and external factors, organizations can make informed decisions and implement targeted actions to achieve their goals and objectives.

Practical Application: How to Apply TOWS Matrix Template

1- Do a SWOT Analysis

Utilizing a SWOT analysis to delineate your business’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats serves as an excellent foundation for crafting an effective strategy.

SWOT Analaysis Template
The UNITE SWOT Framework
First Published in 1965 by 3x colleagues from the Stanford Research Institue. Designed by: Digital Leadership AG

Internal Analysis: Identifying Strengths and Weaknesses

Before delving into the TOWS Matrix, organizations must conduct a comprehensive SWOT analysis to assess internal strengths and weaknesses. This process entails evaluating tangible and intangible assets, assessing organizational structure and organizational culture, reviewing key performance indicators, conducting SWOT analyses, benchmarking against industry peers, seeking stakeholder feedback, and prioritizing areas for improvement. By understanding internal strengths and weaknesses, organizations can leverage their advantages and address deficiencies to enhance overall performance and competitiveness in the market.

External Analysis: Identifying Opportunities and Threats

In parallel, organizations should analyze external factors such as market dynamics, industry trends, regulatory environment, and competitive landscape. This external analysis provides insights into potential opportunities and threats that may impact organizational performance.

2- Translate Your Findings Using a TOWS Matrix

Once the SWOT analysis is complete, organizations can translate their findings into the TOWS Matrix format. By correlating internal strengths with external opportunities, weaknesses with opportunities, strengths with threats, and weaknesses with threats, organizations can generate strategic options for consideration.

Identifying the action link and assessing strategic options involves connecting the identified strategic approaches from the TOWS Matrix with specific actions and evaluating their potential impact on the organization’s objectives. Here’s how you can proceed:

  1. Actions Link:
    • For each strategic approach (Maxi-Maxi, Maxi-Mini, Mini-Maxi, Mini-Mini), identify actionable steps that the organization can take to implement the strategy effectively.
    • These actions should be concrete and feasible, aligned with the organization’s resources and capabilities.
  2. Assessment of Strategic Options:
    • Evaluate the potential outcomes and implications of each strategic option.
    • Consider factors such as resource allocation, risk mitigation, timeline, and expected return on investment.
    • Assess the alignment of each option with the organization’s goals and objectives.

Implementing The UNITE Strategic Options Matrix model in this step is essential as it provides a structured approach to connecting identified strategic approaches with actionable steps. By delineating concrete and feasible actions aligned with the organization’s resources and capabilities, this model ensure clarity and focus in strategy implementation. Additionally, assessing strategic options against organizational goals helps in optimizing resource allocation and minimizing risks. Ultimately, strategic option models serve as invaluable decision support tools, guiding leaders towards the most promising strategies for achieving long-term objectives.

Strategic Options Matrix
The UNITE Strategic Options Matrix
Designed by: Digital Leadership AG

4- Evaluation and Selection of Identified Strategies

After generating strategic options using the TOWS Matrix, organizations must evaluate and prioritize these options based on their feasibility, impact, and alignment with organizational objectives. This involves assessing the potential risks, resource requirements, and anticipated outcomes associated with each strategy.

5- Implementation of Strategy

Once strategic options are selected, organizations must develop detailed implementation plans and allocate resources accordingly. This involves defining clear objectives, timelines, responsibilities, and performance metrics to track progress and ensure accountability.

6- Monitoring the Progress of Strategy Implementation

Throughout the implementation phase, organizations must continuously monitor and evaluate the progress of their strategies. This involves tracking key performance indicators, identifying potential obstacles or challenges, and making necessary adjustments to stay on course.

Tows Matrix Example: Apple Tows Analysis

As a renowned innovator in the technology industry, Apple exemplifies strategic excellence in leveraging its strengths to capitalize on market opportunities while mitigating potential threats.

  • Strengths:
    • Brand Loyalty
    • Innovative Products
    • Ecosystem Integration
    • Strong Financial Position
  • Weaknesses:
    • Dependence on iPhone Sales
    • High Product Pricing
    • Heavy Reliance on Suppliers
    • Limited Market Share in Emerging Markets
  • Opportunities:
    • Expansion into Wearables and Services
    • Diversification of Product Portfolio
    • Focus on Emerging Markets
    • Investment in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Augmented Reality (AR)
  • Threats:
    • Intense Competition
    • Market Saturation
    • Regulatory Scrutiny
    • Rapid Technological Changes

Tows Matrix Example: Google Tows Analysis

Google’s TOWS analysis showcases its ability to harness its technological prowess and organizational agility to navigate competitive challenges and drive sustainable growth.

  • Strengths:
    • Search Engine Dominance
    • Diverse Product Portfolio
    • Technological Innovation
    • Global Reach and Brand Recognition
  • Weaknesses:
    • Privacy Concerns
    • Overreliance on Ad Revenue
    • Antitrust Investigations
    • Diversification Challenges
  • Opportunities:
    • Expansion into Cloud Computing
    • Investment in Artificial Intelligence (AI)
    • Focus on Emerging Markets
    • Diversification into Healthcare and Life Sciences
  • Threats:
    • Regulatory Challenges
    • Competition in Digital Advertising
    • Cybersecurity Risks
    • Market Saturation

Advantages and Limitations of Tows Matrix

The TOWS Matrix offers organizations a structured framework to assess internal strengths and weaknesses in conjunction with external opportunities and threats. While widely utilized for strategic decision-making, the TOWS Matrix possesses both advantages and limitations that warrant consideration.

Advantages of TOWSLimitations of TOWS
– Provides a structured framework for strategic analysis– May lack specificity, leading to broad strategic recommendations
– Integrates both internal and external factors– Requires comprehensive data collection and analysis
– Facilitates identification of strategic options– Can be time-consuming to complete
– Promotes proactive decision-making based on insights– May overlook nuances and complexities of the business environment
– Encourages a balanced assessment of positives and negatives– Requires expertise in strategic analysis and interpretation

Tows Matrix Relation with Other Business Models

Undertaking a TOWS matrix analysis holds significant value across various levels of your business, whether it be the entire organization, a specific department, or even a team. This versatile tool can also be applied to assess processes within your team, evaluate the effectiveness of a communications campaign, or even conduct a self-assessment. By adopting a TOWS analysis, you gain a panoramic view of your strategic landscape, laying the groundwork for informed decision-making and strategy development. However, it’s essential to approach this process with specificity and avoid areas of uncertainty. To enrich your analysis further, consider integrating complementary frameworks such as PESTLE analysis and Porter’s Five Forces model to delve into the macro-environmental factors impacting your organization. Nevertheless, it’s crucial to recognize that a TOWS analysis should not stand alone; rather, it should be supplemented with additional analyses like VRIO analysis, stakeholder mapping, and the BCG Matrix, among others, to ensure a comprehensive understanding of your strategic position.

TOWS Matrix vs Porter’s Five Forces

Porter's Five Forces
Porter’s Five Forces

The TOWS Matrix and Porter’s Five Forces analysis both analyze the external environment of a business. However, there are some key differences between the two:

  • Focus: The TOWS Matrix focuses on the relationship between a company’s internal strengths and weaknesses and the external opportunities and threats in the market. Porter’s Five Forces focuses on the competitive environment and the five forces that impact a company’s profitability.
  • Perspective: The TOWS Matrix provides a more holistic perspective of a company’s situation, considering both internal and external factors. Porter’s Five Forces has a narrower view, focusing on the competitive landscape.
  • Application: The TOWS Matrix is used to generate potential strategies by matching internal strengths and weaknesses with external opportunities and threats. Porter’s Five Forces is used to analyze the industry structure and competitive dynamics to determine the attractiveness of a market.

Both tools can be used in conjunction with each other to provide a more complete understanding of a company’s situation.

TOWS Matrix vs PESTLE Analysis

PESTLE Analysis - PESTLE Analysis Framework
The UNITE PESTLE Analysis Framework
Building on the “ETPS” publication of Francis Aguilar. Designed by: Digital Leadership AG

The TOWS Matrix and PESTLE analysis are both used to analyze the external environment of a business. They aren’t completely the same, however, and each has its particular uses:

  • Scope: The TOWS Matrix analyzes the relationship between a company’s internal strengths and weaknesses and external opportunities and threats. PESTLE analysis examines the broader external environment, including political, economic, social, technological, legal, and environmental factors.
  • Application: While the TOWS Matrix is used to develop potential strategies by matching internal strengths and weaknesses with external opportunities and threats, a PESTLE analysis is used to identify trends and potential impacts of external factors on a business.
  • Timeframe: The TOWS Matrix is typically used for short-term strategic planning and decision-making. PESTLE analysis provides insights into both short-term and long-term impacts of external factors on a business.

While they have their differences, these tools can be used together to provide a more complete understanding of a company’s situation and help inform strategic decision-making.

TOWS Matrix vs Growth Matrix (BCG Matrix)

Growth Share Matrix - BCG Matrix
The Growth Share Matrix (BCG Matrix)
Originally published by Bruce Henderson in his essay The Product Portfolio, in 1970. Designed by: Digital Leadership AG

The TOWS Matrix and the Growth Matrix (BCG Matrix) are used to analyze a company’s position in the market. There are some significant differences between the two, however:

  • Scope: The TOWS Matrix is used to analyze a company’s internal strengths and weaknesses and external opportunities and threats. The Growth Matrix, also known as the BCG Matrix, is used to analyze a company’s product portfolio based on market growth and market share.
  • Focus: The TOWS Matrix focuses on generating potential strategies by matching internal strengths and weaknesses with external opportunities and threats. The Growth Matrix, on the other hand, focuses on determining which products a company should invest in and which it should divest from based on their relative market position.
  • Application: The TOWS Matrix is typically used for short-term strategic planning and decision-making. The Growth Matrix is used for long-term portfolio management. Understanding how each tool develops a specific type of strategic option will ensure that you apply them correctly.

TOWS Matrix vs Ansoff Matrix

The Ansoff Matrix
The UNITE Ansoff Growth Strategies Matrix
Originally developed by Igor Ansoff in 1957. Designed by: DIgital Leadership AG

Finally, the TOWS Matrix and the Ansoff Matrix are both used to analyze a company’s growth opportunities. However, they differ in their approach and focus:

  • Scope: The TOWS Matrix analyzes a company’s internal strengths and weaknesses and external opportunities and threats to generate potential strategies. The Ansoff Matrix, on the other hand, analyzes a company’s product and market strategies based on four growth alternatives: market penetration, market development, product development, and diversification.
  • Focus: The TOWS Matrix is focused on generating potential strategies by matching internal strengths and weaknesses with external opportunities and threats. The Ansoff Matrix focuses on identifying growth opportunities for a company’s existing or new products in existing or new markets.
  • Application: The TOWS Matrix is typically used for short-term strategic planning and decision-making. The Ansoff Matrix is used for long-term growth strategy planning.

Whatever tools you decide to employ, using a variety of approaches is more likely to create positive results. Understanding the strengths and weaknesses of each tool is helpful, too, as is looking for an expert to guide your first steps toward strategic planning.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the TOWS Matrix offers a structured framework for strategic analysis and decision-making, enabling organizations to align internal strengths and weaknesses with external opportunities and threats. By leveraging the TOWS Matrix, organizations can develop tailored strategies to capitalize on opportunities, mitigate risks, and achieve sustainable growth. At Digital Leadership, we are committed to empowering organizations to navigate the complexities of strategic management and implementing digital transformation strategies successfully.

Key Takeaways

  • The TOWS Matrix integrates internal strengths and weaknesses with external opportunities and threats to generate strategic options.
  • By correlating internal and external factors, organizations can develop tailored strategies to capitalize on opportunities, mitigate risks, and achieve sustainable growth.
  • The TOWS Matrix differs from SWOT analysis by focusing on actionable strategies rather than just identifying factors.
  • Practical application of the TOWS Matrix involves conducting a SWOT analysis, translating findings into the TOWS Matrix format, identifying strategic options, evaluating and selecting strategies, implementing strategies, and monitoring progress.
  • Digital Leadership provides comprehensive consulting services and expertise in digital strategy execution to help organizations navigate strategic challenges and achieve their goals.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What are some common pitfalls to avoid when conducting a TOWS Analysis?

Common pitfalls include oversimplification, overlooking external factors, subjective interpretations, and failure to translate analysis into actionable strategies.

2. What preparation should be done before a TOWS?

Before conducting a TOWS analysis, it’s crucial to gather relevant data, conduct a comprehensive SWOT analysis, involve key stakeholders, and establish clear objectives and criteria for evaluation.

3. How do you make the most out of TOWS?

To maximize the utility of a TOWS analysis, ensure specificity in identifying strategic options, prioritize initiatives based on their impact and feasibility, involve cross-functional teams, and integrate insights from complementary strategic frameworks.

4. How often should a TOWS Analysis be updated or revisited?

The frequency of updating or revisiting a TOWS analysis depends on factors such as industry dynamics, market volatility, organizational changes, and strategic priorities. Generally, it’s recommended to review TOWS analysis periodically, at least annually or in response to significant changes in the business environment.

5. Can TOWS Analysis be applied to different industries or sectors, or is it more suitable for specific types of organizations?

TOWS Analysis is a versatile tool that can be applied across various industries, sectors, and organizational types, including businesses, non-profits, government agencies, and educational institutions. Its applicability lies in its ability to provide strategic insights tailored to specific contexts and challenges.

6. Who invented TOWS?

The TOWS Matrix was developed by Heinz Weihrich in the 1980s as an extension of the SWOT analysis, aiming to enhance strategic planning and decision-making processes by integrating internal and external factors.