How to Conduct a SWOT Analysis
SWOT stands for:
A SWOT analysis is used to identify the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats relative to your company, unit or group, or a product, service or program you are responsible for. The SWOT analysis lets you focus on specific areas and discover actions that can help build on strengths, minimize or eliminate weaknesses, maximize opportunities, and deal with or overcome threats.
A SWOT analysis is often conducted with a team and used to inform a strategy or strategic plan and (included as part of the appendix or supporting documentation).
Teams will often start with a session on creating a shared vision, then follow-up with a SWOT analyses.
See How to Align Your Team Around a Shared Vision.
How to Conduct a SWOT Analysis:
1. Select an individual to facilitate the SWOT analysis. While a manager, team or project leader can lead their own SWOT analysis, it is often helpful to use an independent facilitator in order to free up the leader to fully participate and not bias the input from others.
2. Brainstorm a company or unit's strengths
Go around the room and solicit ideas from participants. Areas of strength for a company or unit include: leadership abilities, decision-making abilities, innovation, productivity, quality, service, efficiency, technological processes, and so forth.
Record all suggestions on a flip chart. Avoid duplicate entries. Make it clear that some issues may appear on more than one list. For example, a company or unit may have a strength in an area such as customer service, but may have a weakness or deficiency in that area as well. At this point, the goal is to capture as many ideas on the flip charts as possible.
Evaluating the strengths will take place later.
See 15 Ways to Rain on a Brainstorming Session for tips on what to avoid when brainstorming.
3. Consolidate ideas
Post all flip charts pages on a wall. While every effort may have been taken to avoid duplicate entries, there will be some ideas that overlap. Consolidate duplicate points by asking the group which items can be combined under the same subject. Resist the temptation to over-consolidate—lumping lots of ideas under one subject. Often, this results in a lack of focus.
4. Clarify ideas
Go down the consolidated list item by item and clarify any items that participants have questions about. It's helpful to reiterate the meaning of each item before discussing it. Stick to defining strengths. Restrain the team from talking about solutions at this point in the process.
5. Identify the top three strengths
Sometimes the top three strengths are obvious and no vote is necessary. In that case, simply test for consensus. Otherwise, give participants a few minutes to pick their top issues individually. Allow each team member to cast three to five votes (three if the list of issues is ten items or fewer, five if it is long). Identify the top three items.
If there are ties or the first vote is inconclusive, discuss the highly rated items from the first vote and vote again.
6. Summarize strengths
Once the top three strengths are decided, summarize them on a single flip chart page.
7. Repeat Steps 2-6 for weaknesses
Similar to strengths, areas of weakness for a company or unit include: leadership abilities, decision-making abilities, innovation, productivity, quality, service, efficiency, technological processes, and so forth.
8. Repeat Steps 2-6 for opportunities
Areas of opportunities include: emerging markets, further market penetration, new technologies, new products or services, geographic expansion, cost reduction, and so forth.
9. Repeat Steps 2-6 for threats
Areas of threat include: entrance of a new competitor, legislation or regulations that will increase costs or eliminate a product, a declining product or market, and so forth.
Conducting a SWOT analysis is a great way to develop a picture for where you are and where you need to go. Following these steps gives you a process for efficiently getting results in a way that involves and energizes a team.