How to Perform a SWOT Analysis

When I look in my toolbox, I see a hammer, pliers, wrenches, and other goodies. Most tools are good for a single task. Other tools are multi-faceted and may be used in a variety of ways.

Allow me to share a simple, but powerful planning and analysis technique that may be utilized for many facets of your professional and personal life – the SWOT analysis.

SWOT analysis, strength, weakness, opportunity, and threat words

The SWOT analysis is a simple but powerful technique used for strategic planning and risk identification. You may use the SWOT analysis for professional and personal evaluations.

SWOT stands for:

  • Strengths
  • Weaknesses
  • Opportunities
  • Threats

Where To Use The SWOT Analysis

Once you have learned how to conduct a SWOT analysis, you may use the same steps to analyze and plan for entities including: 1) large, complex organizations, 2) departments, or 3) teams. You can also perform your own personal SWOT.

Here are a few examples of different ways in which I have used this technique:

  • Enterprise SWOT
  • Department SWOT
  • Business Process SWOT
  • Software Application SWOT
  • Personal SWOT

Inside – Out Analysis

Some people refer to the SWOT analysis as the Inside – Out Analysis. The focus of the strengths and weaknesses is internal. Internally, what strengths distinguish you from others? What are your weaknesses?

The focus of the opportunities and threats is external. For example, what opportunities exist due to changes in the political environment, technology, or markets. Consider the external threats that may cause your organization harm.

Let’s Dig A Little Deeper

  • Strengths (Internal Focus) – something that an entity is good at doing or that gives the entity an important capability. A strength may be a skill, expertise, a valuable resource, a competitive capability, or an attribute that provides market advantage.
  • Weaknesses (Internal Focus) – something an entity lacks or does poorly or a condition that puts it at a disadvantage.
  • Opportunities (External Focus) – a combination of circumstances favorable to a good chance.
  • Threats (External Focus) – an expression of intention to hurt, destroy, or punish; an indication of, or source of danger.

How To Perform The SWOT Analysis

Here are the steps for performing a SWOT. Be sure to include appropriate stakeholders in your analysis.

  1. Brainstorm and capture Strengths.
  2. Analyze and combine appropriate Strengths.
  3. Prioritize Strengths in descending rank order.
  4. Follow these steps 1-3 for Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats.
  5. Combine strategies. For example:
    • Define strategies that use Strengths to take advantage of Opportunities.
    • Define strategies that use Strengths to avoid Threats.
    • Define strategies that take advantage of Opportunities by overcoming Weaknesses.
    • Define strategies that minimize Weaknesses and avoid Threats.

Question: 95 percent of a typical workforce does not understand its organization’s strategy. How do you ensure everyone understands the strategy?

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2 Responses to How to Perform a SWOT Analysis

  1. Dave Ingram says:

    I have recently read a suggestion that the SWOT analysis become OTSW. Meaning that you should first study the Opportunities and Threats that you face and then look to see whether you have Strengths or Weaknesses that line up with those. Source is Mind of the Fox by Clem Sunter. It is about how companies can be prepared for a changing future. Looking Outside first seems like it would help with the preparing for change. Looking Inside first might tend to reinforce pre-existing beliefs of what is needed.

  2. Good practice. I know of several companies that have analyzed its capabilities using this format; simple and effective.

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