Tag Archives: SWOT analysis

What’s The Point of a SWOT Analysis?

SWOT is about the only tool that is used proactively across our organization. So, how should we use it and why?

Rich Horwath has a good list of 5 common mistakes made in completing SWOT analyses.

At the bottom of that webpage he points out why we should complete a SWOT analysis in the first place. As he says:

Step 1 is the SWOT Analysis. Step 2 is to use the Opportunity & Threat Matrices to prioritize the opportunities and threats based on probability and impact. Step 3 consists of SWOT Alignment where you align strengths and weaknesses with opportunities and threats to develop potential strategies. SWOT can be a powerful tool when used correctly and can be a time sucking, snooze-fest when used incorrectly.

In his book Deep Dive, Horwath describes his Step 3 like this:

The SWOT Alignment model aligns the internal capabilities (strengths and weaknesses) with the external possibilities (opportunities and threats) to methodically develop potential strategies. …… To construct the SWOT Alignment model, list the strengths, weaknesses , opportunities, and threats in their respective boxes. Then create potential strategies by methodically aligning the strengths and opportunities, strengths and threats, weaknesses and opportunities, and weaknesses and threats in the appropriate boxes. This model serves as an appropriate exercise after a SWOT Analysis and Opportunity & Threat matrices have been completed.

I’d tell you more, but Horwath will probably sue me for stealing his IP. You’ll have to read the book I’m afraid.

Using a SWOT Analysis in Developing a Strategic Plan

A SWOT analysis can be used to help determine what actions should be taken to meet a goal. This should be clear in the items identified in the SWOT, and the actions taken as a result.

The first thing to do is state the goal to be achieved. This could be an organization Vision statement, a Direction statement or a team objective. You can’t develop a strategy using a SWOT analysis if you do not know what goal you want to achieve.

The purpose of completing a SWOT chart is to identify the most important things upon which to build, avoid, make the most of, and counter (respectively) through the actions in the plan in order to achieve the goal. The items in the SWOT analysis should clearly relate to the achievement of the goal.

Similarly, the actions identified after completing the SWOT should clearly relate to the items identified in the SWOT. Otherwise, there was no point in doing the SWOT analysis in the first place.

Let’s work through an example.

Say that an organizational goal is: “To motivate 100 volunteers to do something specific with a product developed by your organization by the end of this calendar year.”

The strengths of your organization, weaknesses of your organization, opportunities coming up in your environment, and the external threats to succeeding in your goal can be listed in a SWOT chart as follows:

Strengths:

  • We have a working prototype of the tool already developed.
  • The tool is easy to use, so training of volunteers should be quick.

Weaknesses:

  • We don’t currently know 100 volunteers.

Opportunities:

  • There’s an industry conference in May that many of our volunteers could attend.
  • An existing donor to our organization has said that they will provide the funds to use tools like the one that we have developed.
  • The volunteers we know respect us and like to refer other people to us.

Threats:

  • The best time of year for volunteers to use this tool is September, and it is already February.

Notice that the wording of the SWOT items specifically relate to the wording in the objective.

The action plan to achieve the objective could then directly relate to the items in the SWOT analysis as follows:

  1. Fred to contact all known volunteers by March 31st to invite them to the May conference.
  2. Jane to produce demonstration kits and promotional material by May 1st for volunteers to recruit further volunteers.
  3. Arthur to contact the donor by February 28th to see if they will fund production of 100 tool kits by August 31st.
  4. Algernon to build a Facebook page by March 31st describing the tool to allow known volunteers to share the idea with other potential volunteers.

Notice that the words in the actions directly relate back to the items identified in the SWOT analysis, which in turn relate directly to the goal.

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.