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Contingency Model - Fred Fiedler

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What is Fiedler's Contingency Model?

Fred Fiedler's Contingency Model  was the third notable situational model of leadership to emerge. This model appeared first in Fiedler's 1967 book, A Theory of Leadership Effectiveness .

The essence of Fiedler's theory is that a leader's effectiveness depends on a combination of two forces:

  • The leader's leadership style , and
  • 'Situational favourableness'.

Fiedler called the combination of leadership style and 'situational favourableness'  Situational Contingency.

Fiedler - Leadership Styles

Fiedler described two basic leadership styles - task-orientated and relationship-orientated:

1. Task-Oriented Leaders

  • These leaders have a strong bias towards getting the job done without worrying about their rapport or bond with their followers. 
  • They can, of course, run the risk of failing to deliver if they do not engage enough with the people around them.

2. Relationship-Oriented Leaders

  • These leaders care much more about emotional engagement with the people they work with , but sometimes to the detriment of the task and results.

Fiedler said neither style is inherently superior. However, he asserted that certain leadership challenges suit one style or the other better. 

Fiedler - Situational Favourableness

Fiedler defined three factors determining the favourableness of the situation:

  • How much trust, respect and confidence exists between leader and followers.
  • How precisely the task is defined and how much creative freedom the leader gives to the followers.
  • How much do the followers accept the leader's power.

Fiedler believed the situation is favourable when:

  • There is high mutual trust, respect and confidence between leaders and followers.
  • The task is clear and controllable.
  • The followers accept the leader's power.

The situation is unfavourable if the opposite is true on all three points.

Leadership Effectiveness

Fiedler said that  task-orientated leaders are most effective when facing a situation that is either extremely favourable or extremely unfavourable. In other words:

  • When there is enormous trust, respect and confidence,
  • When the task is very clear, and
  • When followers accept the leader's power without question,

and also when the opposite is true, i.e.:

  • when trust and respect do not exist,
  • when the challenge people face is vague and undefined, and
  • when the atmosphere is anarchic or even rebellious (for example, in an emergency or crisis)

Fiedler concluded that relationship-orientated leaders are most effective in less extreme circumstances. That is, in situations that are neither favourable nor unfavourable or situations that are only moderately favourable or moderately unfavourable.

Shown in a table:

Fiedel's View of Personality

Fiedler's theory took a significant and firm view of personality:  

  • He said that a leader's style reflected his or her personality, (which incidentally he assessed in his research using a psychometric instrument).
  • Fiedler's view about personality - and indeed the common notion of the times - was that individual personality is fixed and does not change during a leader's life/career. 
  • Consequently, Fiedler's theory placed great emphasis on 'matching' leaders to situations, according to the perceived style of the leader and the situation faced (by the organisation).

As such, Fiedler's theory also encourages us to consider the leader's personality and the leader's behaviour from these angles:

  • The extent to which (a leader's) personality is fixed, and
  • The extent to which (a leader's) personality controls (a leader's) behaviour.

Clearly, if a model such as this is to be of great value, then these questions need to be clarified rather than they have been to date, which is not easy given the complexity of human nature.

Limitations of Fiedler's Contingency Model

Fiedler's Contingency Model is, therefore, a somewhat limited model for effective leadership.  

  • Notably, it's not a useful guide for helping people become better leaders;  
  • nor is it an efficient or necessarily flexible model for modern leadership in organisations, given the dynamic variety of situations that nowadays arise.

A further implication of Fiedler's theory is potentially to require the replacement of leaders whose styles do not match situations, which from several viewpoints (legal, practical, ethical, etc.) would be simply unworkable in modern organisations.

Nevertheless, despite its limitations, Fiedler's theory was an important contribution to leadership thinking, especially in reinforcing the now generally accepted views that:

  • There is no single ideal way of behaving as a leader, and
  • Matching leadership behaviour (or style) to circumstances (or situations) - or vice-versa - is significant ineffective leadership.

We are left to conclude somewhat conditionally, that if personality is fixed (which generally it is) and personality controls behaviour, (which generally,  it seems to) then  the notion of:

  • 'matching behaviour to the circumstances'

probably equates unavoidably to:

  • 'matching the person to the circumstances' ,

which is usually not a viable approach to leadership and leadership development within modern organisations.

We live in an increasingly virtual world which allows lots of inter-changeability (like 'matrix management for example - where followers may have two different bosses for two different sets of responsibilities, such as local markets vs international markets), but most indications are that  frequently changing leaders in order to match fixed leadership behaviours to corresponding and suitable situations is less efficient and effective than organisations having leaders who can adapt freely outside of, and despite, individual personality constraints.


James scouller biography.

We are grateful to James Scouller for his help, patience, and expert contribution in producing this leadership guide.

James Scouller is an expert coach and partner at The Scouller Partnership in the UK, which specialises in coaching leaders. He was chief executive of three international companies for eleven years before becoming a professional coach in 2004. He holds two postgraduate coaching qualifications and training in applied psychology at the Institute of Psychosynthesis in London.

James Scouller's book is called " The Three Levels of Leadership: How to Develop Your Leadership Presence, Know-how and Skill " which was published in May 2011.

  • You can learn more about James Scouller's book at  three-levels-of-leadership.com .
  • Details of James Scouller's executive coaching work are at  TheScoullerPartnership.co.uk .
  • Business strategy |
  • What is a contingency plan? 9 steps tha ...

What is a contingency plan? 9 steps that could save your business when crisis strikes

Julia Martins contributor headshot

A business contingency plan is a backup strategy for your team or organization. It lays out how you’ll respond if unforeseen events knock your plans off track—like how you’ll pivot if you lose a key client, or what you’ll do if your software service goes down for more than three hours. Get step-by-step instructions to create an effective contingency plan, so if the unexpected happens, your team can spring into action and get things back on track.

No one wants Plan A to fail—but having a strong plan B in place is the best way to be prepared for any situation. With a solid backup plan, you can effectively respond to unforeseen events effectively and get back on track as quickly as possible. 

A contingency plan is a proactive strategy to help you address negative developments and ensure business continuity. In this article, learn how to create a contingency plan for unexpected events and build recovery strategies to ensure your business remains healthy.

What is a business contingency plan? 

A business contingency plan is a strategy for how your organization will respond to important or business-critical events that knock your original plans off track. Executed correctly, a business contingency plan can mitigate risk and help you get back to business as usual—as quickly as possible. 

You might be familiar with contingency plans to respond to natural disasters—businesses and governments typically create contingency plans for disaster recovery after floods, earthquakes, or tornadoes. 

But contingency plans are just as important for business risks. For example, you might create a contingency plan outlining what you will do if your primary competitors merge or how you’ll pivot if you lose a key client. You could even create a contingency plan for smaller occurrences that would have a big impact—like your software service going down for more than three hours.

The differences between a business contingency plan and a project risk management plan

A contingency plan is similar to a project risk management plan or a crisis management plan because it also helps you identify and resolve risks. However, a business contingency plan should cover risks that span multiple projects or even risks that could affect multiple departments. To create a contingency plan, identify and prepare for large, business-level risks.

Contingency plan examples

There are a variety of reasons you’d want to set up a contingency plan. Rather than building one contingency plan, you should build one plan for each type of large-scale risk or disaster that might strike. 

Environmental contingency plan

While severe earthquakes aren’t particularly common, being unprepared when “the big one” strikes could prove to be catastrophic. This is why governments and businesses in regions prone to earthquakes create preparedness initiatives and contingency plans.

A government contingency plan for an earthquake could include things like: 

The names and information of the people designated to handle certain tasks in advance to ensure the emergency response is quick and concise

Ways to educate the public on how to respond when an earthquake hits

A timeline for emergency responders.

Technology contingency plan

If your business is particularly data-heavy, for example, ensuring the safety and security of your information systems is critical. Whether a power surge damages your servers or a hacker attempts to infiltrate your network, you’ll want to have an emergency response in place.

A business’s contingency plan for a data breach could involve: 

Steps to take and key team members to notify in order to get data adequately secured once more

The names and information of stakeholders to contact to discuss the impact of the data breach and the plan to protect their investment

A timeline to document what is being done to address the breach and what will need to be done to prevent data breaches in the future

9 steps to create a contingency plan

You can create a contingency plan at various levels of your organization. For example, if you're a team lead, you could create a contingency plan for your team or department. Alternatively, company executives should create business contingency plans for situations that could impact the entire organization. 

As you create your contingency plan, make sure you evaluate the likelihood and severity of each risk. Then, once you’ve created your plan—or plans—get it approved by your manager or department head. That way if a negative event does occur, your team can leap to action and quickly resolve the risk without having to wait for approvals.

1. Make a list of risks

Before you can resolve risks, you first need to identify them. Start by making a list of any and all risks that might impact your company. Remember: there are different levels of contingency planning—you could be planning at the business, department, or program level. Make sure your contingency plans are aligned with the scope and magnitude of the risks you’re responsible for addressing. 

A contingency plan is a large-scale effort, so hold a brainstorming session with relevant stakeholders to identify and discuss potential risks. If you aren’t sure who should be included in your brainstorming session, create a stakeholder analysis map to identify who should be involved.

2. Weigh risks based on severity and likelihood

You don’t need to create a contingency plan for every risk you laid out. Once you outline risks and potential threats, work with your stakeholders to identify the potential impact of each risk. 

Evaluate each risk based on two metrics: the severity of the impact if the risk were to happen, and the likelihood of the risk occurring. During the risk assessment phase, assign each risk a severity and likelihood—we recommend using high, medium, and low. 

3. Identify important risks

Once you’ve assigned a severity and likelihood to each risk, it’s up to you and your stakeholders to decide which risks are most important to address. For example, you should definitely create a contingency plan for a risk that’s high likelihood and high severity, whereas you probably don’t need to create a contingency plan for a risk that’s low likelihood and low severity. 

You and your stakeholders should decide where to draw the line.

4. Conduct a business impact analysis

A business impact analysis (BIA) is a deep dive into your operations to identify exactly which systems keep your operations ticking. A BIA will help you predict what impact a specific risk could have on your business and, in turn, the response you and your team should take if that risk were to occur. 

Understanding the severity and likelihood of each risk will help you determine how exactly you will need to proceed to minimize the impact of the threat to your business. 

For example, what are you going to do about risks that are low severity but high likelihood? What about risks that are high severity, but relatively low likelihood? 

Determining exactly what makes your business tick will help you create a contingency plan for every risk, no matter the likelihood or severity. 

[inline illustration] Business impact analysis for a contingency plan (example)

5. Create contingency plans for the biggest risks

Create a contingency plan for each risk you’ve identified as important. As part of that contingency plan, describe the risk, and brainstorm what your team will do if the risk comes to pass. Each plan should include all of the steps you need to take to return to business as usual.

Your contingency plan should include information about:

The triggers that will set this plan into motion

The immediate response

Who should be involved and informed

Key responsibilities, including a RACI chart if necessary

The timeline of your response (i.e. immediate things to do vs. longer-term things to do)

[inline illustration] 5 steps to include in your contingency plan (infographic)

For example, let’s say you’ve identified a potential staff shortage as a likely and severe risk. This would significantly impact normal operations, so you want to create a contingency plan to prepare for it. Each person on your team has a very particular skill set, and it would be difficult to manage team responsibilities if more than one person left at the same time. Your contingency plan might include who can cover certain projects or processes while you hire a backfill, or how to improve team documentation to prevent siloed skillsets. 

6. Get approval for contingency plans

Make sure relevant company leaders know about the plan and agree with your course of action. This is especially relevant if you’re creating team- or department-level plans. By creating a contingency plan, you’re empowering your team to respond quickly to a risk, but you want to make sure that course of action is the right one. Plus, pre-approval will allow you to set the plan in motion with confidence—knowing you’re on the right track—and without having to ask for approvals beforehand.

7. Share your contingency plans

Once you’ve created your contingency plans, share them with the right people. Make sure everyone knows what you’ll do, so if and when the time does come, you can act as quickly and seamlessly as possible. Keep your contingency plans in a central source of truth so everyone can easily access them if necessary.

Creating a project in a work management platform is a great way of distributing the plan and ensuring everyone has a step-by-step guide for how to enact it.

8. Monitor contingency plans

Review your contingency plan frequently to make sure it’s still accurate. Take into account new risks or new opportunities, like new hires or a changing business landscape. If a new executive leader joins the team, make sure to surface the contingency plan for their review as well. 

9. Create new contingency plans (if necessary)

It’s great if you’ve created contingency plans for all the risks you found, but make sure you’re constantly monitoring for new risks. If you discover a new risk, and it has a high enough severity or likelihood, create a new contingency plan for that risk. Likewise, you may look back on your plans and realize that some of the scenarios you once worried about aren’t likely to happen or, if they do, they won’t impact your team as much.

Common contingency planning pitfalls—and how to avoid them

A contingency plan is a powerful tool to help you get back to normal business functions quickly. To ensure your contingency planning process is as smooth as possible, watch out for common pitfalls, like: 

Lack of buy-in

It takes a lot of work to create a contingency plan, so before you get started, ensure you have support from executive stakeholders. As you create your plan, continuously check in with your sponsors to ensure you’ve addressed key risks and that your action plan is solid. By doing so, you can ensure your stakeholders see your contingency plan as something they can get behind.

Bias against “Plan B” thinking

Some company cultures don’t like to think of Plan B—they like to throw everything they have at Plan A and hope it works. But thinking this way can actually expose your team to more risks than if you proactively create a Plan B.

Think of it like checking the weather before going sailing so you don’t accidentally get caught in a storm. Nine times out of ten, a clear sunny day won’t suddenly turn stormy, but it’s always better to be prepared. Creating a contingency plan can help you ensure that, if a negative event does occur, your company will be ready to face it and bounce back as quickly as possible. 

One-and-done contingency plans

It takes a lot of work to put a contingency plan together. Sometimes when you’ve finished, it can be tempting to consider it a job well done and forget about it. But make sure you schedule regular reminders (maybe once or twice a year) to review and update your contingency plan if necessary. If new risks pop up, or if your business operations change, updating your contingency plan can ensure you have the best response to negative events. 

[inline illustration] The easiest ways to prevent contingency plan pitfalls (infographic)

You’ve created a contingency plan—now what?

A contingency plan can be a lot of work to create, but if you ever need to use it, you’ll be glad you made one. In addition to creating a strong contingency plan, make sure you keep your plan up-to-date.

Being proactive can help you mitigate risks before they happen—so make sure to communicate your contingency plan to the team members who will be responsible for carrying them out if a risk does happen. Don’t leave your contingency plan in a document to collect dust—after creating it, you should use it if need be!

Once you’ve created the plan, make sure you store it in a central location that everyone can access, like a work management platform . If it does come time to use one of your contingency plans, storing them in a centrally accessible location can help your team quickly turn plans into action.

Top 10 Leadership and Learning Resources

Article by Ken Thompson , 15 Jun 2017

Top 10 Leadership and Learning Resources

I am delighted to share my Top 10 Leadership and Learning Resources

The resources are listed in purely alphabetical order: 

  • Businessballs
  • Center for Creative Leadership (CCL)
  • Chief Learning Officer (CLO) Magazine
  • CIPD Learning
  • Management Study Guide
  • Skills You Need
  • Training Journal
  • Training Magazine
  • Training Zone Magazine

All content is free but in some cases you will need to register or provide an email to access the content.

A short overview of each resource with web links and recommended "Standout Sections" follows below:

1. Businessballs

Businessballs is a free ethical learning and development resource for people and organizations, run by Alan Chapman, founded and based in Leicester UK.  Businessballs.com launched at the end of 1999. The concept began a few years earlier as an experimental online collection of learning and development ideas. The website is now used by about a million people each month. Alan originally created the Businessballs name for juggling balls in his training and development business.  The philosophy of the website is intended to be ethical, practical, innovative, compassionate and enjoyable.

Website: http://www.businessballs.com

Standout Section: eLeadership Academy grade

Weblinks:   http://www.accipio.com/eleadership/

Businessballs has partnered with Accipio, an Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM) and Chartered Management Institute (CMI) centre, to offer FREE audio-visual interactive eLearning modules aligned with internationally recognised qualifications (ILM or CMI). Modules include the Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Leading Change and Leadership Behaviour. Accreditation fees apply.

2. Center for Creative Leadership (CCL)

Founded in 1970 as a non profit, CCL is a top-ranked global provider of leadership development with 10 office locations and 500+ faculty and staff members.

Website: https://www.ccl.org/

Standout Section: Articles, White Papers and Research Reports grade





A wealth of great "Thought Leadership" material including Serious Games and Gamification.

3. Chief Learning Officer (CLO) Magazine

Chief Learning Officer is a multimedia publication focused on the importance, benefits and advancements of a properly trained workforce with award-winning content catering specifically to executives in the enterprise learning market.

Website: http://www.clomedia.com

Standout Section : Latest - Learning Delivery grade

Weblinks: http://www.clomedia.com/latest/learning-delivery/

Excellent and concise articles on current hot topics such as graduate training, corporate universities, experiential learning, evolution of e-learning and unconscious bias training effectiveness.

4. CIPD Learning

The CIPD is incorporated under Royal Charter and the only professional body in the world that can confer individual Chartered status on HR and L&D professionals.

Website : https://www.cipd.co.uk/learn

Standout Section: Knowledge Hub grade

Weblinks: https://www.cipd.co.uk/knowledge

Factsheets, Podcasts and Reports on the following important leadership areas:

  • People management fundamentals
  • Strategy and planning
  • Organisational culture and behaviours
  • The Changing context of work

5: Management Study Guide

MSG is a leading global provider of management & skill based education addressing the needs of over 1.2M members across 198 countries  with over 150 courses prepared by top notch professionals from the Industry.

Website:   http://managementstudyguide.com/

Standout Section : Library grade

Weblinks: http://managementstudyguide.com/all-subjects.htm

A rich library of articles covering Management Basics, Management Functions, Organizational Behaviour and People Management.

6: Mind Tools

Established in 1996, Mind Tools helps more than 25,000,000 people each year from many different levels within organizations – ranging from senior executives and business owners to young professionals and career-starters.  Many top, global organizations also use Mind Tools material to increase productivity, improve management and leadership skills, and support organizational development initiatives.

Website: https://www.mindtools.com

Standout Section: Toolkit - Leadership Skills grade

Weblinks: https://www.mindtools.com/pages/main/newMN_LDR.htm

Great Practical tools for leaders covering General Leadership, Understanding Power, Leadership Styles, Emotional Intelligence, Becoming a Leader, Young/Future Leaders and Crisis and Contingency Planning. 

7. Skills You Need

SkillsYouNeed is passionate about providing high quality information and resources that help you learn and develop the skills you need to make the most of everyday life. For the L&D practitioner, SkillsYouNeed offers comprehensive sections on Personal Skills, Interpersonal Skills, Leadership Skills and Learning Skills.

Website:   https://www.skillsyouneed.com

Standout Section : Leadership Skills grade

Weblinks: https://www.skillsyouneed.com/leadership-skills.html l

Great resource on the 4 core areas of Leadership:

  • Understanding Leaders
  • Planning and Organising Skills
  • Leading People
  • Change Management

8. Training Journal

TJ is the largest L&D online community and content publisher for training professionals. TJ hosts the well-respected TJ Awards and the groundbreaking #TJwow discussion webinars. With 50 years in publishing, TJ is one of the most experienced L&D publishers in the market.  

Website:   http://www.trainingjournal.com/

Standout Section : Blogs grade

Weblinks:  http://www.trainingjournal.com/blogs

A fantastic array of blogs by numerous practitioners in the field covering important 'state of the practice' topics in L&D and leadership.

9. Training Magazine

Training magazine is a 53-year-old professional development magazine that advocates training and workforce development as a business tool. The magazine and its web site delve into management issues such as leadership and succession planning; HR issues such as recruitment and retention; and training issues such as learning theory, on-the-job skills assessments, and aligning core workforce competencies to enhance the bottom-line impact of training and development programs. All of the content is written exclusively for the site by training, human resources, and business management professionals from a variety of industries.

Website: https://trainingmag.com/

Standout Section: Podcasts grade

Weblinks: https://trainingmag.com/podcasts

A series of 7 podcasts, produced by Ottawa-based writer/audio producer Kevin McGowan in partnership with Training magazine, includes one-on-one interviews with fascinating people in the training/learning and development world. The podcasts focus on training technologies, projects, career paths, and more and aim to provide listeners with a unique view into training and knowledge development.

10. Training Zone Magazine

With over 100,000 members, TrainingZone.co.uk is the UK's largest online community for L&D and training professionals.

Website: http://www.trainingzone.co.uk

Standout Section: Hot Topics grade

Weblinks: http://www.trainingzone.co.uk/hot-topics

Well-written articles on topical themes in Leadership, Behaviours, Culture and Communication.

Please email me your favourite leadership and learning resources and I will add your suggestions to this list.

And a member of our Team will be in touch

We have 150+ articles on a wide range of Business Leadership Topics Explore articles

More about Ken Thompson

Ken Thompson

Ken is a practitioner, author and speaker on Leadership, Collaborative Working, High Performing Teams, Change Management, Project Management and Business Acumen. His work has featured in major publications including The Guardian , Wired Magazine, The Huffington Post and The Henry Ford Magazine. Ken has also spoken at many international events including TEDx, the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI), Learn Tech (London) and NASA.

Ken is Founder of Business Simulations Ltd.

Want to know more about this topic?

As well as starting the conversation we will send you a FREE Executive Summary of our Book:

A Systematic Guide to Game Based Learning in Organizations

We transform Leadership Development using Business Simulations , guided by three principles:

'Learn by Doing' approaches, such as Simulation , are more engaging & effective than traditional forms of learning


Team Learning offers a powerful extra learning dynamic & fosters better Collaboration & Team skills

Innovation skills learned during Simulations are easier to transfer back to the workplace

Business Acumen Simulation

Business Acumen & Strategy Simulation (B2C)

Business Acumen & Strategy Simulation (B2B)

Your Team is Probably not Making Effective Decisions

How to Challenge all Management Levels Through Business Simulations

Targets, Orders, Guarantees and Promises - Does the Difference Matter?

businessballs contingency plan

Why Choose Business Simulations?

We champion Business Simulations as an effective and engaging form of Leadership Development. 'Learn by doing' hones skills in a safe and controlled environment.

Let's Talk Business Simulations

We would love to tell you more about what we can do for your Business. Feel free to give us a call on +44 2896 237253

businessballs contingency plan

mist of management

Making sense of management

businessballs contingency plan

Preparing your business for emergencies and disruption (including Coronavirus)

How do you prepare your business for disruptive events that threaten the continuity of your operations? Improving your business resilience doesn’t have to be complicated, nor should it be. The fact you are even thinking about these issues hugely increases your business’ chance of survival.

The world of resilience planning and Business Continuity is full of clever jargon and three letter acronyms that mean well, but often make continuity planning inaccessibly confusing. Basic, straight-forward resilience preparations, flexibility and good management skills can make all the difference.

The key to success is to build resilience into the everyday operations and culture of your organisation; adopting flexible working practices, reinforcing key infrastructure and creating an organisational culture that is adaptable to change. If your approach to business continuity requires complex new systems, processes, technology or language, it’ll be a challenge to use when you need it most.

(I started this article in February 2020, just as the Coronavirus was gaining a foothold in the UK and Europe to share some basic good practice on preparing businesses for disruption).

For more information on business continuity management, organisational resilience and preparing for emergencies, please see other mistofmanagement.net articles:

  • What is Business Continuity? An introduction to Business Continuity as a concept and programme of work
  • Preparing your business for emergencies and disruption – key tips and ideas for improving the resilience of any business or organisation for disruption and emergencies
  • What is Organisational Resilience? – an exploration of ‘organisational resilience’ as a concept and how it complements Business Continuity Planning
  • Free Business Continuity Plan template (BCP) – A free template BCP and general advice for any organisation seeking to develop a Business Continuity Plan

Keep it simple

Resilience that complements, not duplicates or imposes.

“Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not more so.” Albert Einstein, 1916

Don’t make resilience complicated, keep it simple and make it work for you. Too often I’ve seen resilience consultants impose new and separate reporting structures, introduce new technical language, sell complex business continuity management IT systems and seek to make organisations act in ways that are alien to them and their cultures.

The most effective approach is to build resilience into your business so that works for the organisation and its culture. Resilience should complement what you do, not duplicate or impose on it. If your organisation has management practices and structures that work for you, stick to them. Use what’s familiar, just support it to adjust to the urgency of an emergency situation. Larger, more complex organisation will need more thorough preparations, so don’t leave it too late.

Preparation is in the planning, not necessarily the plan

The most important element in preparing for emergencies is in the planning – not necessarily the plan itself. Bringing people together, discussing what could happen and how you’d deal with it and practising. The plan is the cherry on top; the value is in initiating the conversation, and then keeping it going.

Get to know your business

Identify your ‘critical functions’ and ‘single points of failure’.

Critical functions  are the processes that are essential to your business’ continued operation. In simplest terms, if you stopped doing these things your business would go bust. Often, you’ll know what these are immediately. If you don’t, this can be a helpful exercise to streamline your business and help you understand what’s really important to it. Examples may include:

  • paying bills
  • creating a specific product
  • providing a certain expert service
  • communicating via a particular medium, like a website (or blog)
  • maintaining a reputation with specific customers or groups
  • paying your staff

These functions will differ for each business/organisation. When identifying these  keep it simple  and in general terms; there’s usually alternative ways to deliver these functions (as we’ll come to later). Anything you can stop doing or  ‘nice-to-haves’  should be ignored. Ceasing these for a period may have an impact on revenue or reputation, but you’ll still be operating as a business. (I’m currently working for a public sector agency that has identified 5 critical functions that it must continue doing at all times:

  • providing accurate answers to enquiries from the public
  • paying grants to community groups and charities on time
  • maintaining and updating the website and social media every day
  • ensuring their call-centre remains operational with acceptable waiting times
  • paying staff on time

businessballs contingency plan

Single points of failure –  Once you’ve identified your critical functions, think about what and whom you need to make them happen. Mapping these processes in simple flow charts can be helpful.

What you’re looking for is  options.  If one part of the process stops, is there another way of delivering it? If not, you’ve found a  Single Point of Failure .  It could be something as simple as a single employee knowing the log-in details for your payment system (useful for security, bad for resilience), to being completely reliant on a single supplier for a key component for a major product.

Once you’ve found your single point(s) of failure, do something about it! Build resilience and redundancy into your system; seek alternatives; share those log-in details! Create your Plan-B even if it’s just in your head. Do something about it!

Core infrastructure – the backbone of your business

Your core infrastructure is the backbone of your business – such as Facilities, IT, HR, Finance – they touch all parts of your organisation.

businessballs contingency plan

If these fail your business will most probably fail  unless you can get them back fast enough ; so they’re a good place to start if you want to build resilience.

  • People  – you, your co-workers, managers, staff. Particularly susceptible to sickness, transport disruption, weather and civil disturbance related incidents
  • Place  – the places you work, meet, engage with clients, store your equipment and inventory. Directly susceptible to physical damage (fires, floods), water leaks, lost keys, power failures, criminal activity, or indirectly through anything that denies you access, like police cordons, gas leaks, or just really bad traffic
  • Money  – Cash flow – for most, money going out has to equal money coming in, otherwise bills go unpaid, salaries don’t get paid, and debt increases. This concerns outgoing payments as well as incoming revenue from charges and sales. Susceptible to IT failure, cyber-crime, cash-flow, economic crisis
  • Technology  can be a double-edged sword; increasing resilience through reducing reliance on other core infrastructure (e.g. enabling flexible working) whilst creating a critical vulnerability that your whole business relies upon. We rely so heavily on technology that if we were to lose it suddenly, the impact would be immediate and catastrophic. Susceptible to loss of facilities, physical damage, infrastructure and utilities failure, human error, cyber-crime/malicious activity… and so much more…
  • Decision making  (and communications) – your business’ ability to make decisions quickly and communicate these effectively. Decide who’s in charge! And their back-ups. An emergency is the time you need senior managers to step-up and earn their pay – assessing the situation, problem solving, planning, communicating, implementing, monitoring and driving delivery. Susceptible to personnel loss, human error, technological failure.

Write down what you’ve discovered and what you’ll do in a plan

You’ve gone through so much: delved into the workings of your business, mapped processes, identified risks that you never realised you had, and strategised on how you would deal with different situations, so don’t lose it; write it down.

Make it easy to understand, keep it precise with key actions and pre-made decisions and statements; things you’ll need when everything is going haywire around you. Most of us will rarely have the time to read a detailed emergency plan when an incident is taking place, so keep it short and snappy.

It’ll probably sit in a file somewhere in ‘the cloud’ somewhere until you need it. Make sure you know how to contact your staff, suppliers and key contacts during office hours and out. Don’t create something new if you already have this, as long as you have access to these when you might need them, then that’s fine.

To set you off on the right foot, you can find a free Business Continuity Plan template here .

True resilience cannot be imposed or designed; it’s something that is grown and nurtured within a culture of an organisation. Organisational Resilience is about creating an organisation that can withstand disruptions inherently and is ready to adapt to the needs of the situation, quickly, effectively and efficiently. You can reinforce your core systems, and build in redundancy into critical functions, but to survive and thrive, you’ll need the belief and desire, in exactly the same way as you need it in  change management .

Business continuity is about developing plans to deal with difficult situations ( Business Continuity Institute , 2020).

Organisational Resilience and Business Continuity are distinct but complementary fields. You can create plans, produce documents and talk-the-talk, but unless you believe in them and have a culture that’s ready to stand up to the challenges, the plans will fail.

There’s plenty more you can do, but if you follow the advice here, you’ll be well on your way.

  • The BCI,  Introduction to Business Continuity,  online at:  https://www.thebci.org/knowledge/introduction-to-business-continuity.html  (viewed, 30/03/2020)
  • OUBS, 2011,  B716 Management: Perspectives and Practice – Managing Operations,  The Open University, Milton Keynes, UK
  • Sterling. S, et al, 2012,  ‘Business Continuity for Dummies’,  John Whiley and Sons Ltd, Chichester, UK
  • Einstein. A, 1916,  Ernst Mach,  Physikalische Zeitschrift, 17, 101-104 Wikipedia, 2008,  Single Point of Failure (SPOF),  online at:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Single_point_of_failure  (viewed 30/03/2020) 
  • Businessballs.com,  8-Step Change Model – Kotter,  online at:  https://www.businessballs.com/change-management/8-step-change-model-kotter/  (viewed: 30/03/2020)
  • Kotter. J.P. , 1996,  Leading Change , Boston, MA, Harvard Business School Press

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12 Apr Planning Techniques

Many different methods for planning exist, each with their own benefits and drawbacks in different situations. No one technique will be suitable for every situation, in fact, a number of these techniques will usually be required for a successful overall strategy. Different methods are used to cover different timeframes, areas of the business and utilise different skill-sets.

Strategic Planning

Strategic planning aims to ensure employees and other stakeholders are all working towards a common goal and their energy, focus and resources are all aligned towards this. Agreements are made about the direction the organisation wants to move in and how every contributor can ensure this happens. As well as the overall goal and how they are going to get there, a strategic plan also often lays out how the success of the strategy will finally be measured.

Action Planning

Unlike strategic planning, this type of planning is far more focused on day-to-day activities. Individual, team or project activities are organised and set out in a timetable. This helps to focus attention on the task at hand, rather than focusing on the bigger picture. This increases levels of motivation and efficiency, as well as providing a useful tool for monitoring and evaluation after the task has been completed. Specific details are planned for to the level of who will be where, when and the exact amount of resources they will require.

Tactical Planning

This type of planning builds on the strategic plan already set out, by breaking the tasks down into short-term actions and plans. It is usually drawn up by lower-level managers as they have better knowledge of their departments and day-to-day running of the business. The extra level of detail in a tactical plan increases efficiency and helps individuals and teams to know exactly what is required of them.

Operational Planning

This type of planning aligns different functions of the business, for example HR or marketing, with the overall goals and objectives of an organisation. This includes planning levels of resources, processes, where people are needed and department budgets. This is important for each individual department but also overall integration within the business, ensuring every area of a strategy is covered and no two departments are working on the same project. Simplicity and clarity are key as the plan must be easily understood and distributed across the organisation.

Assumption-based Planning (ABP)

All plans make assumptions about the future and identifying these assumptions are crucial to any plan. In the scenario of any assumption not occurring the organisation must have plans for how to react to this. Once these assumptions have been identified it is then important to identify which will have the biggest impact on the business if they were to fail. ‘Signposts’ can then be set up to monitor any potential issues and actions can be taken to manage the assumptions made. Finally, hedging actions can be taken to prepare for the instance where assumptions fail. As the business environment becomes more unpredictable and volatile ABP has become more crucial to strategies.

Contingency Planning

This type of planning involves preparing for the worst case scenario to occur. All strategies have the potential to fail when they are affected by internal or external factors. This may be a supplier suddenly closing down, damage or loss of property or a change in government legislation. These events are often unavoidable, and hence instead of attempting to block them, plans need to be made for the event of them occurring. Firstly, a risk assessment should take place, highlighting the greatest potential risk to the business. Once risks have been highlighted plans can be made for if they occur, laying out the actions required, the triggers to the events, timeframes for action and budgeting. Contingency plans are often unused by the completion of the strategy, and hence ignored by many companies, but to initiate a strategy without one poses a serious risk to any business. Although they are rarely called upon, when they are they often save companies vast amounts of money.

Coaching, Online Training Courses, Learning Resources and People Development Training to Train the Trainer

How to do a SWOT analysis

14/03/2021 by Mike Morrison 12 Comments

How to do a SWOT analysis and how to write a SWOT analysis

How to do a swot analysis

How to wrote and how to do a swot analysis

How to do a SWOT Analysis

A SWOT is a planning tool used to understand the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats involved in a project or in a business. It involves specifying the objective of the business or project and identifying the internal and external factors that are supportive or unfavourable to achieving that objective.

SWOT is an acronym for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats.

There are several ways of graphically representing the SWOT analysis matrix or grid. Several versions are shown on this page – use the one which is best suited to your application.

While at first glance the SWOT looks like a simple model and easy to apply, I can say from experience, that to do a SWOT analysis that is both effective and meaningful, requires time and a significant resource. This cannot be done effectively by just one person. It requires a team effort.

The term “SWOT ANALYSIS” is in itself an interesting term. To my understanding, the SWOT is not an analysis. It is a summary of a set of previous analyses – even if those were not more than 15 minutes of mini-brainstorming with yourself in front of your computer.The analysis or more correctly interpretation comes after the SWOT summary has been produced.

SWOT Analysis Tools & Presentation

The swot model.

Strengths Weaknesses

Opportunities Threats

Definition of SWOT

A SWOT analysis generates information that is helpful in matching an organization or group’s goals, programs, and capacities to the social environment in which it operates.

  • Positive tangible and intangible attributes, internal to an organization.
  • They are within the organization’s control.
  • Factors that are within an organization’s control that detract from its ability to attain the desired goal.
  • Which areas might the organization improve?


  • External attractive factors that represent the reason for an organization to exist and develop.
  • What opportunities exist in the environment, which will propel the organization? Identify them by their “time frames”
  • External factors, beyond an organization’s control, which could place the organization mission or operation at risk.
  • The organization may benefit by having contingency plans to address them if they should occur.
  • Classify them by their “seriousness” and “probability of occurrence”.

Introduction to SWOT

The SWOT analysis tool is great for developing an understanding of an organization or situation and decision-making for all sorts of situations in business and organizations.

The SWOT analysis headings provide a good framework for reviewing strategy, position and direction of a company or project.

Doing a SWOT analysis can be very simple, however its strengths lie in its flexibility and experienced application.

Applications of SWOT

A SWOT Analysis can be used for:

  • Workshop sessions
  • brainstorm meetings
  • Problem solving
  • Product evaluation
  • Competitor evaluation

The SWOT is a great tool that can be used in association with PESTLE

Overview of SWOT

Aim of a swot analysis.

  • Reveal your competitive advantages
  • Analyse your prospects for sales and profitability
  • Prepare your company for problems
  • Allow for the development of contingency plans

A SWOT analysis is a process to identify where you are strong and vulnerable — where you should defend and attack. The result of the process is a ‘plan of action’, or ‘action plan’.

The analysis can be performed on a product, on a service, a company or even on an individual.

Done properly, SWOT will give you the BIG PICTURE of the MOST IMPORTANT FACTORS that influence SURVIVAL and PROSPERITY. As well as a PLAN to ACT ON.

How to do a SWOT

Irrespective of whether you or your team are future planning for specific products, work, personal or any other area, the SWOT analysis process is the same.

  • Step 1 – Information collection – In the here and now… List all strengths that exist now. Then in turn, list all weaknesses that exist now. Be realistic but avoid modesty!
  • You can conduct one-on-one interviews. Or get a group together to brainstorm. A bit of both is frequently best.
  • You’ll first want to prepare questions that relate to the specific company or product that you are analyzing. You’ll find some questions and issues below to get you going.
  • When facilitating a SWOT – search for insight through intelligent questioning and probing
  • Step 2 – What might be… List all opportunities that exist in the future. Opportunities are potential future strengths. Then in turn, list all threats that exist in the future. Threats are potential future weaknesses.
  • Step 3 – Plan of action… Review your SWOT matrix with a view to creating an action plan to address each of the four areas.

SWOT in summary:

  • Strengths need to be maintained, built upon or leveraged.
  • Weaknesses need to be remedied, changed or stopped.
  • Opportunities need to be prioritized, captured,built on and optimized.
  • Threats need to be countered or minimized and managed.

A SWOT analysis can be very subjective, and two people rarely come-up with the same final version of SWOT. It is an excellent tool however, for looking at the negative factors first in order to turn them into positive factors. Use SWOT as guide and not a prescription.

Simple rules for a successful SWOT analysis

  • Be realistic about the strengths and weaknesses of your organization.
  • The Analysis should distinguish between where your organization is today, and where it could be in the future.
  • Be specific. Avoid gray areas.
  • Always analyze in relation to your competition i.e. better than or worse than your competition.
  • Keep your SWOT short and simple.
  • Avoid complexity and over analysis.

What makes a SWOT analysis work?

Due to the collaborative nature of this tool, your working group will need certain qualities to succeed:

  • Trust – The questions that SWOT will bring up, particularly in the Weaknesses and Threats categories may be uncomfortable. Your group must be at a point in its working relationship where weaknesses and potential threats can be faced openly and objectively.
  • Ability and willingness to implement change.
  • Diversity – The team conducting the SWOT analysis should be representative of your entire planning team.
  • Time – Taking time to do a thorough SWOT assessment will help your group move forward in developing a workable plan.

Steps/ Process

  • Establish that your coalition has the necessary components to successfully conduct a SWOT analysis (above).
  • Assemble the group that will conduct the SWOT
  • Set up meeting times (if the SWOT is not going to be completed in one ‘sitting’
  • Distribute/ complete the tool individually
  • In the group meeting, combine individual answers. Collaborate on each category. Complete the analysis.
  • Discuss how to use the information gathered from the SWOT to inform your next steps.

Using SWOTs with an Objective or Goal

If a SWOT analysis does not start with defining a desired end state or objective, it runs the risk of being an exercise for the sake of an exercise (i.e. useless).

A SWOT analysis may (should) be incorporated into a strategic planning model.

If a clear objective has been identified, SWOT analysis can be used to help in the pursuit of that objective.

In this case, SWOTs are:

  • Strengths: attributes of the organization that are helpful to achieving the objective.
  • Weaknesses: attributes of the organization that are harmful to achieving the objective.
  • Opportunities: external conditions that are helpful to achieving the objective.
  • Threats: external conditions that are harmful to achieving the objective.

Decision makers can then determine whether the objective is attainable, given the SWOT’s. If the objective is NOT attainable a different objective must be selected and the process repeated.

Use of SWOTs: Generating Strategies – get them USED

When the desired objective has been deemed attainable, the SWOTs are used as inputs to the creative generation of possible strategies, by asking and answering each of the following four questions, many times:

  • How can we Use each Strength?
  • How can we Stop each Weakness?
  • How can we Exploit each Opportunity?
  • How can we Defend against each Threat?

Ideally a cross-functional team or a task force that represents a broad range of perspectives should carry out the SWOT analysis. For example, a SWOT team may include an accountant, a salesperson, an executive manager, operational staff and an engineer,

What strengths and weaknesses are examined The strengths and weaknesses analysis is an internal examination that focuses on your past performance, present strategy, resources and capabilities. It is based on an analysis of facts and assumptions about the company, including:

  • People and skills (in particular marketing, export experience)
  • staff development
  • Properties (Buildings, Equipments and other facilities)
  • Financial resources (debt to asset ratio and personal equity)
  • Management/ leadership
  • Staff development
  • Communication
  • Capabilities/scaleability
  • Capital structure suppliers
  • Customers (market research)
  • Intellectual property

In other words –

  • What do you do well? Is there anything you do better than most? Better than anyone else?
  • What should be improved? What do you do poorly? What should you avoid, based on mistakes in the past?

What opportunities and threats are examined

The opportunity and threat analysis is carried out by examining external factors in your domestic and export market(s). This is usually broken down into environmental factors and competitors, including:

Opportunities and threats are often taken from a PESTLE analysis

  • Where can you find, or create, a competitive advantage? What are some major trends in your business? – Consolidation / Diversification? – Specialization / Generalization? – Changes in technology. Such as computer software that lets you perform services that others can not. – Changes in the types of businesses in your potential market, such as the demand for healthcare or telecommunications expertise. – Changes in social patterns, population profiles, lifestyle. – Changes in creative trends. – Changes in demand for certain types of services, perhaps related to interactive / Internet.
  • What obstacles do you face? What are your competitors doing that may result in a loss of clients, customers, market share? Are the required specifications for your job, products or services changing? Is changing technology threatening your position? Do you have cash-flow problems?

go to top Is the defined objective attainable?

Since historical and trend data are not given, it is difficult to judge whether the business can be doubled as that would require an annual growth rate of 26 per cent per year.  Therefore, it would be more realistic to restate the objective as: “To increase the business over the next three years.”  The same SWOT details apply.

More examples of SWOT in use and types of application

Swot examples.

You know the situation, you are asked to undertake a simple SWOT analysis of a department.  You are given a little time and are aware of certain factors which may or may not impact. So lets have a look at the first initial SWOT:

A SWOT on a Human Resource function:

Or from another point of view:

So as you can see there is no right or wrong answer to any section, it is down to your analysis of the situation.

SWOT Analysis are more effective when undertaken as a team activity with people from varying backgrounds and experiences. The very best application of a SWOT analysis is when a task team or change team is assembled to undertake the data capture and analysis. A team approach will help to ensure a balanced approach and that one aspect is not emphasized inappropriately.

SWOT Examples continued

SWOT analysis approach can be used for:

  • Business Planning
  • Career development
  • Competitor analysis
  • Situational analysis
  • Strategic planning
  • Personal development
  • Managing people
  • Problem Solving

What is a SWOT analysis?

When undertaking a traditional strategic planning process, debating future direction, or assessing existing opportunities for the organization, a board or management team can rely on a SWOT analysis for help. During the analysis, the team lists and assesses the organization’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. Each of these controlling forces prompts the team to consider factors that might easily be overlooked as it shapes the future of the organization.

This process provides insights to the organization’s internal and external positioning, examining internal and external elements that must be factored into future decision making. It prohibits the organization from becoming too insular and functioning without proper feedback.

Conduct a SWOT analysis on your company.

Conduct a SWOT analysis on your product

Conduct a SWOT analysis on your services

Conduct a SWOT analysis on yourself.

Conduct a SWOT analysis on your web site.

Conduct a SWOT analysis on your intranet site.

Conduct a SWOT analysis on your competitors

Offer a SWOT analysis to your current clients.

Offer a SWOT analysis to your current customers.

“Management tools can help to better understand particular aspects of an organization or its environment. For the following step – the analysis of insights provided by the models – however, there is no model. Management models are effective only if their users are able to realize connections and gaps and to draw appropriate conclusions.” – Dagmar Recklies

For a complete Internal SWot, look at our Business Improvement Review or access the limited function free version here

Find out more about our proven diagnostic tools:

Please visit our main SWOT analysis page for more information

This page has been developed by Mike Morrison – Principle consultant at RapidBI.  You are free to use any of the SWOT tools on this page, however if you wish to use this page on a web site please credit us and link to our home page, and keep all links intact.

Based upon information from www.businessballs.com www.wikipedia.com, Albert S Humphrey, Stanford Research Institute,

Armstrong. – M. A handbook of Human Resource Management Practice (10th edition) , Armstrong.M – Management Processes and Functions J. Scott Armstrong – “The Value of Formal Planning for Strategic Decisions”. Strategic Management Journal, Gower handbook of Management Skills, Handy – Understanding Organizations, Hill, T. & R. Westbrook – “SWOT Analysis: It’s Time for a Product Recall”. Long Range Planning Menon, A. et al. – “Antecedents and Consequences of Marketing Strategy Making”. Journal of Marketing, and many other sources.

No copyright is assumed. This page is provided for educational purposes only. RapidBI Ltd cannot accept any responsibility for the actions taken using this or any of the tools provided on this site. Please note this page is updated on a regular basis.  The more feedback we get the more we will develop this and similar pages for people studying CIPD and other HR and management programmes.

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About Mike Morrison

Mike is a consultant and change agent specialising in developing skills in senior people to increase organizational performance. Mike is also founder & director of RapidBI, an organizational effectiveness consultancy. Check out his linkedin profile MikeMorrison LinkedIn Profile

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