What’s the Point of a SWOT Analysis?

We’ve all completed SWOT analyses in our time. But why?

Well, the idea is that the strategic plan is actually affected by what the SWOT analysis uncovers. It’s really simple. I’ve read a lot of plans that include a SWOT analysis that highlight all sorts of interesting looking opportunities and threats, and then the strategy seems to completely ignore them.

The idea of the SWOT analysis is that it identifies:

  • Strengths – that the strategic plan then builds upon in an identifiable way.
  • Weaknesses – that the strategic plan then corrects or circumvents in an identifiable way.
  • Opportunities – that the strategic plan recognizes in an identifiable way, and then shows upon how they are capitalized.
  • Threats – that the strategic plan circumvents or mitigates in a recognizable manner.

Let’s look a couple of examples.

  1. If the SWOT analysis identifies that “lack of staff”  is a major weakness, then the strategic plan should include a line item that makes direct reference to how staff will be recruited, or how additional staff are not needed. I would certainly expect there to be a direct reference to the word “staff” and it’s level in the plan.
  2. If the SWOT analysis shows that an upcoming conference is a major opportunity, then the strategic plan should refer to that conference by name, and explain (albeit in one or two sentences possibly) how that conference would be used to achieve the maximum amount of progress towards the goal of the organization.

If a SWOT analysis is not directly used to influence the strategic plan, then don’t waste the time to generate it. Instead of having a one hour brainstorming meeting of your 6 most valuable team members, have them go do something else that will directly contribute to the goal of the organization – you’ll be 6 man hours of good stewardship ahead. However, if you use those 6 man hours to identify ways to create thousands of man hours move value, and you actually do something with those ideas then you will be leading strategically.

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