SWOT Analysis

Strength, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats - SWOT Analysis

SWOT is the acronym of Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. It is a simple management technique that can be utilized in preparing or adjusting plans, regarding business strategies and decision-making.

Definition

SWOT analysis is a general technique that can be applied across while addressing functions and activities, but it is more appropriate toward the early stages of planning for initial business assessment. Conducting SWOT analysis implicate and document the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats relating to a given job. It should be conventional analysis to review accounts of internal resources and capabilities (strengths and weaknesses) and factors external to the organization (opportunities and threats).

Benefits

SWOT analysis can provide:

  • A structure for identifying and analyzing strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.

  • The drive to review a situation and develop appropriate strategies and plans.

  • A foundation for assessing primary capabilities and competences.

  • The confirmation for to business alterations.

  • Employees’ engagement and participation while utilizing group experience.

Action checklist

1. Establish the objectives

The first key step in any project is to be clear about what you are doing and why. The purpose of conducting SWOT analysis may be wide or narrow, general or specific.

2. Select appropriate contributors

This is important if the final outcome is to result from consultation and discussion, not just personal views, however expert.

3. Allocate research and information-gathering tasks

Background preparation is a vital stage for the subsequent analysis to be effective, and should be divided among the SWOT participants. This preparation can be carried out in two stages:

  • Exploratory, followed by data collection.

  • Detailed, followed by a focused analysis.

Gathering information on Strengths and Weaknesses should focus on the internal factors of skills, resources and assets, or lack of them. Gathering information on Opportunities and Threats should focus on the external factors over which you have little or no control, such as social or economic factors.

4. Create a workshop environment

If compiling and recording the SWOT lists takes place in meetings, then do exploit the benefits of workshop sessions. Encourage an atmosphere conducive to the free flow of information and to participants saying what they feel to be appropriate, free from blame. The leader/facilitator has a key role and should allow time for free flow of thought, but not too much. Half an hour is often enough to spend on Strengths, for example, before moving on. It is important to be specific, evaluative and analytical at the stage of compiling and recording the SWOT lists. Mere description is not enough.

5. List Strengths

Strengths can relate to the group, to the environment, to perceptions, and to people. 'People' elements include the skills, capabilities and knowledge of participants. Other people strengths include:

  • Friendly, cooperative and supportive participants.

  • Appropriate levels of involvement through delegation and trust.

6. List Weaknesses

This session should not constitute an opportunity to focus on negative points but should be honest appraisals of the way things are. Key questions include:

  • What obstacles may prevent progress?

  • Which elements need strengthening?

  • Are there any real weak links in the chain?

It is not unusual for 'People' problems — poor communication, inadequate leadership, lack of motivation, too little delegation and no trust — to feature among the major weaknesses.

7. List Opportunities

This step is designed to assess the socio-economic, environmental and demographic factors, among others, to evaluate the benefits they may bring to the assessment review. For example, the availability of new technology may be considered.

Bear in mind just how long opportunities might last and how the group may take best advantage of them.

8. List Threats

The opposite of Opportunities, these are things that may, with a shift of emphasis or perception, have an adverse impact.

Weighing threats against opportunities is not a reason to indulge in pessimism. It is rather a question of considering how possible negative experience may be limited or eliminated. The same factors may emerge as both a threat and an opportunity, for example, Information Technology. Most external factors are in fact challenges, and whether the group perceives them as opportunities or threats is often a valuable indicator of morale.

9. Evaluate listed ideas against objectives

With the lists compiled, sort and group facts and ideas in relation to the objectives. It may be necessary for the SWOT participants to select their five most important items from the list in order to gain a wider view. Clarity of objectives is key to this process, as evaluation and elimination will be necessary to separate the wheat from the chaff. Although some aspects may require further information or research, a clear picture should, at this stage, start to emerge in response to the objectives.

10. Carry your findings forward

Make sure that the SWOT analysis is used in subsequent planning. Revisit your findings at suitable time intervals, e.g. on return from your visit to check that they are still valid.

Dos and Do-Not for SWOT analysis

Do

  • Be analytical and specific.

  • Record all thoughts and ideas in stages 5-8.

  • Be selective in the final evaluation.

  • Choose the right people for the exercise.

  • Choose a suitable SWOT leader or facilitator.

Do-Not

  • Try to disguise weaknesses.

  • Merely list errors and mistakes.

  • Lose sight of external influences and trends.

  • Allow the SWOT to become a blame-laying exercise.

  • Ignore the outcomes at later stages of the planning process.


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