Analysing Strengths Weaknesses Opportunities and Threats is a simple but effective method that can be used to:
Explore possibilities for new projects or programmes.
Make decisions about the best path for your initiative.
Identifying your opportunities for success in context of threats to success can clarify directions and choices.
Adjust and refine mid-course. A new opportunity might open wider avenues, while a new threat could close a path that once existed.
SWOT also offers a simple way of communicating about your initiative or program and an excellent way to organize information you’ve gathered from studies or surveys.
How do you use your SWOT analysis?
Knowledge is indeed power, and knowing what the positives and negatives of your programme or project are puts you in a more powerful position for action.
While a SWOT analysis is not in itself action, it can be a “support team” to help you:
Identify the issues or problems you intend to change
Set or reaffirm objectives
And as you consider your analysis, remember the half-full glass. Be open to the possibilities that exist within a weakness or threat. Likewise, recognize that an opportunity can become a threat if everyone else sees the opportunity and plans to take advantage of it-thereby increasing your competition.
What are the elements of a SWOT analysis?
A SWOT analysis focuses on the four elements of the acronym.
Below is a simple example of what your SWOT analysis can look like – the project under consideration is the development of a new irrigation scheme.
Strong dairy and sheep industryHeavy reliance on dairy
Abundant landFragmented leadership within the industry
High capability within the industryDemographics of farmers
Increases in GDP per capitaLack of funding
Increases in land valuesLack of buy in from local farmers
Diversity of land use
Insufficient water rights
Undertaking a SWOT
Here are some of the forces and facts that you and your stakeholders might want to consider as you develop your SWOT.
Future trends – in the field
The economy – local, regional, national, or international
Demographics – changes in the age, race, gender, culture of those you serve or in your area
The physical environment
Local, regional national or international events and strategy that may impact
Eight Easy Steps to a Successful SWOT
Designate a leader or group facilitator who has good listening and group process skills, and who can keep things moving and on track.
Designate a recorder to back up the leader if your group is large. Use butchers paper or a large white board to record the analysis and discussion points. You can record later in a more polished fashion to share with stakeholders and to update.
Introduce the SWOT method and its purpose in your organization. This can be as simple as asking, “Where are we, where can we go?” If you have time, you could run through a quick example based on a shared experience or well-known public issue.
Depending on the nature of your group and the time available, let all participants introduce themselves. Then divide your stakeholders into smaller groups. If your meeting draws several groups of stakeholders together, make sure you mix the small groups to get a range of perspectives, and give them a chance to introduce themselves.
The size of these depends on the size of your entire group-breakout groups can range from three to ten. If the size gets much larger, some members may not participate.
Have each group designate a recorder, and provide each with butchers paper or white board. Direct them to create a SWOT analysis in the format you choose-a chart, columns, a matrix, or even a page for each quality.
Give the groups 20-30 minutes to brainstorm and fill out their own strengths, weakness, opportunities and threats chart for your programme or project. Encourage them not to rule out any ideas at this stage, or the next.
You can provide these tips for listing:
As you list, keep in mind that the way to have a good idea is to have lots of ideas. Refinement can come later. In this way, the SWOT analysis also supports valuable discussion within your group or organization as you honestly assess.
In the beginning, though, it helps to generate lots of comments about your organization and your aims.
In the end, it is best to limit your lists to 10 or fewer points and to be specific so the analysis can be truly helpful.
Reconvene the group at the agreed-upon time to share results. Gather information from the groups, recording on the butchers paper or white board. Collect and organize the differing groups’ ideas and perceptions, using one of the following methods.
Decide before hand how you will gather the feedback. There are at least two ways to do so:
Proceed in S-W-O-T order, recording strengths first, weaknesses second, etc.
Or you can begin by calling for the top priorities in each category -the strongest strength, most dangerous weakness, biggest opportunity, worst threat–and continue to work across each category.
There are also two ways to take information from the groups.
Ask one group at a time to report (“Group A, what do you see as strengths?”) You can vary which group begins the report so a certain group isn’t always left “bringing up the end” and repeating points made by others. (“Group B, let’s start with you for weaknesses.”)
Or, you can open the floor to all groups (“What strengths have you noted?”) for each category until all have contributed what they think is needed.
Whichever way you proceed, the facilitator or recorder should keep writing until the input from all groups is recorded. Note repeated items across groups for “weighting” of important possibilities.
You might want to discuss some of the items as they come up. In fact, cross connections between categories-“This strength plays into that opportunity”-is what you’re pursuing, so a good facilitator will tease out those insights as they arise.
At the same time, you want to keep the process moving until all the chart is complete, so facilitator and recorder should work together to begin a fifth column or new page-one for working ideas.
Encourage the participants to also make notes of ideas and insights as you build so the drawing together process will continue to be creative and collaborative.
Discuss and record the results. Depending on your time frame and purpose come to some consensus about most important items in each category relate the analysis to your vision, mission, and goals
If appropriate, prepare a written summary of the SWOT analysis to give or mail to participants for continued use in planning and implementing your effort.