What if you could sum up all of your organization’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats with a straightforward exercise that could guide your organizational strategy for years to come? Would you do it?
Of course you would. And the good news is that the groundwork for this type of exercise has already been laid out.
It’s called a S.W.O.T. analysis, and in this article we’ll look at what S.W.O.T. analysis is, how to do it, and several examples to follow for your own analysis.
What is a S.W.O.T. analysis?
S.W.O.T. stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.
S.W.O.T. analysis is just one of the tools in a project manager’s toolbox, along with things such as project management software and SMART criteria, and it can be very helpful during strategic planning and decision making.
S.W.O.T. can be used to analyze teams, projects, businesses, organizations, or even individual products. In fact, you can use it to make routine decisions in your everyday life.
What to have for breakfast? S.W.O.T. it. Where to go this weekend? S.W.O.T. it. How to lose weight? S.W.O.T. it.
If S.W.O.T. analysis sounds a little ambiguous it’s because it is very open-ended.
S.W.O.T. analysis is basically a framework for making calculated, informed decisions.
In a S.W.O.T. analysis, you essentially take a long, hard look in the mirror—preferably as a group—and determine what your organization is really good at, what it could get much better at, areas for growth, and what external factors could undermine your efforts.
S.W.O.T. analysis doesn’t so much help you determine what to do, as much as it helps you determine whether or not to do something. In other words, S.W.O.T. analysis is less of a crystal ball and more of a compass.
The ultimate goal of S.W.O.T. analysis is to match strengths with opportunities to determine a clear path to success, or uncover weaknesses that could be exploited so that they can be avoided in your organizational strategy.
In this way, S.W.O.T. analysis informs risk management.
S.W.O.T at a glance
Here’s a quick glance at each element of S.W.O.T.
Strengths: What is your team really good at? What do you offer people that others can’t or don’t?
Weaknesses: What are some things that your team is not very good at, that others do much better?
Opportunities: What are some areas that your organization could thrive in that it isn’t currently taking advantage of?
Threats: What are some external factors—competitors, consumer demand, economic conditions—that could make it more difficult for your team to succeed?
You’ll notice that the first two letters focus on things that you have some control over internally, while the last two focus on external, environmental conditions that your organization will have to respond to.
A free S.W.O.T. analysis template to get you started
Here’s a S.W.O.T. analysis template that you can copy and fill in with your own strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Then, in the next section, we’ll look at what to do once you’ve filled out the template. We’ve also included some example S.W.O.T. analyses below, using this same template.
Once you have filled out the S.W.O.T. worksheet, it’s time to turn your brainstorming into tangible next steps.How do I use a S.W.O.T. analysis?
Start by looking for connections. If you can draw clear lines between strengths and opportunities—say your sunglasses business caters to young people and you have an opportunity to open a new location near a college campus—it’s a good time to be aggressive.
On the other hand, if your weaknesses and threats seem to outweigh your strengths and opportunities—say you’re a traditional printing company and the industry is being overtaken by digital press—it may be time to come up with some new objectives, like expanding into digital markets.
5 S.W.O.T. analysis examples
Here are some basic examples of S.W.O.T. analysis so you can see how it’s done.
1. Banana for breakfast
- Potassium and vitamin c
- Good value
- Banana split
- Topping on cereal
- Frozen bananas
- Not filling enough
- Peel is slipping hazard
- Small ripeness window
- Missing out on an apple
- Banana allergies
- Losing the heartiness of oatmeal
Strategy: The cost, nutritional value, and versatility of the banana make it a wise choice, despite its negligible shortcomings and different options.
2. Weekend trip to the lake
- A body of water
- Starry skies
- Go water skiing
- Have a campfire
- Drink a beverage on the porch swing
- Waterfront prices
- Machete-wielding killers
- Missing out on a weekend at the beach
- Getting bit up by mosquitoes
- It rains all weekend
Strategy: The natural beauty and the selection of outdoor activities makes the lake a tantalizing destination for a weekend getaway, but its high cost and risk of bodily harm could warrant a look at other locations.
3. Jog after work
- Calorie burn
- Fresh air
- Sense of accomplishment
- Meet your future significant other
- Be filmed for a viral video
- Discover a briefcase full of money
- Sweaty clothes
- Hostile commuters
- Shin splints
- Getting attacked by a feral cat
- FOMO when you see cyclists speed by
- Missing out on the camaraderie of CrossFit
Strategy: The combination of getting your cardio in and giving yourself a chance to find a mate, internet fame, and/or riches far outweighs the downside of dodging traffic and having to do laundry afterward.
As you’ll see below, S.W.O.T. analysis can also be used to make project management decisions in the workplace.
4. Free or open source project management software
- Community support makes open source more agile
- Basic versions are often easier for new users
- Try out PM software without a financial commitment
- Save company resources for the annual holiday party
- Stick it to the man by using open source
- Limited features
- Limited customer support
- Infrequent updates
- Missing out on all the extra features of paid software
- Your open source PM software is abandoned by the developer
- Trying to get customer service on a free version in the middle of a hectic project
Strategy: Free project management software has its limitations, but can be a good fit for small teams or freelancers looking to try it out for the first time. But it is not a replacement for full featured project management software.
5. Hiring a summer intern
- Energetic and hard working
- Up on the latest technology
- Cost effective
- Learn about hip music and TV shows
- Learn new slang
- They could turn into full-time employees
- Takes time to train them
- They have to go back to school at the end of the summer
- They’re still learning
- They could fall asleep at their desk
- They might cut out early on a Friday to go to a music festival
- They use your training to get hired at a rival company
Strategy: With preparation and proper expectations, summer interns can be cost effective and productive.
S.W.O.T. are you waiting for?
Now that you know a little bit more about S.W.O.T. analysis and have seen a few examples, it’s time to try out S.W.O.T. analysis with your team!
Source: Business 2 Community