A SWOT analysis can help you discover the best direction to move, strengths you can take advantage of, and weaknesses you need to avoid or shore up. Making a SWOT analysis worthwhile takes brainstorming, discussion, arguing, prioritizing, and finally, executing an action plan. It should break new ground and create new insights into developing a project, changing an organization, or building your career.
If you’re just doing a SWOT, then you can probably get it done in a couple of hours of good discussion and a few pads of large Post-It Notes®, but if you want to follow it with a SWOT Action Plan, then you will probably need a second meeting of two or more hours. I highly recommend having each of these meetings in the morning. Have tea, coffee, cheese, yogurt, etc. available. Have lunch brought in if you expect to go over the lunch hour; not too many sweets or you could get insulin-induced brain crashes before lunch. If you’re doing a personal SWOT analysis on your own career, you might work on it for an hour, set it aside, come back a few times as you have insights, and then have one or two close (constructive) friends review it as a reality check.
Here’s a step-by-step guide to creating a SWOT analysis. (A step-by-step for creating the SWOT Action Plan is in a related article. < link>
1. Stakeholders must define a clear, one sentence objective for the SWOT. All work and discussions around the SWOT should be relative to this one sentence objective. For example,
2. Prior to the SWOT meeting, prepare a room with enough wall space for Post-It Notes ® used in brainstorming which will feed the SWOT and then the SWOT Action Plan. The SWOT and SWOT Action Plan don’t have to all be up on a wall at the same time, but if you do it all together a little extra room won’t hurt. See how to brainstorm with Post-It Notes®. <link>
If you are doing a Personal SWOT, then clear the dishes off the kitchen table and use 3” X 3” (7.5 cm X 7.5 cm) Post-It Notes. Just be sure to leave a clear space for the kids when they come down for breakfast.
3. Convene a brainstorming meeting to develop the SWOT analysis.
4. Brainstorm Opportunities and Threats first.
Opportunities and Threats are external, such as new markets, competitor’s products or services, regulations, competitive barriers, and so forth. Opportunities and threats are usually in a future time frame. Examples of Opportunities and Threats are here for business and here for personal.
5. Brainstorm Strengths and Weaknesses second.
Strengths and Weaknesses are internal, such as, mentors or key employees, intellectual property, skills or leading edge processes, image and brand strength, and so forth. Strengths and weaknesses are usually in the current time frame. Examples of Strengths and Weaknesses are here for business and here for personal. <links>
6. Prioritize the top five (5) in each Strength, Weakness, Opportunity, and Threat quadrant.
At this point you and your team should have a good understanding of your Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. The next, and really important step, is to create a SWOT Action Plan. The SWOT Action Plan is where you take action on what you have discovered. Executing the Action Plan is Critical to Success.