Monday, March 16, 2009

How To Do A SWOT Analysis

SWOT is a planning tool used to understand strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats involved in a project or in a business. It involves identifying the internal and external factors that are supportive or unfavorable to achieving an objective. SWOT analysis can be graphically represented with a matrix or a grid. Although SWOT appears to be an easy model, an effective and meaningful SWOT analysis requires time and resources. One person cannot do this method effectively; it requires a team effort. SWOT is not an analysis; rather it is summary of a previous set of analyses (mini-brainstorming activities).

A SWOT analysis produces information that is helpful in pairing an organization’s goals and programs with the social environment in which it operates.

*Strengths—internal attributes within an organization’s control
*Weaknesses—within the organization’s control but detract from its ability
*Opportunities—external factors that present opportunities within the environment
*Threats—external factors that place the organization at risk

SWOT’s strength as a model lies in its flexibility and experienced application. For example, a SWOT analysis can be used for workshops, brainstorming, problem solving, planning, evaluation, and competitor evaluation. The analytic method aims to reveal a company’s competitive advantages, analyze prospects for sales, prepare the company for future problems, and allow for the development of contingency plans.

To conduct a SWOT analysis:
1) Collection information—list all strengths and weaknesses
2) List all opportunities that might exist in the future as well as all threats that may exist
3) Review the SWOT matrix to create an action plan to address the four areas.

Due to SWOT’s subjective characteristics, two people rarely draft the same final version of a SWOT analysis. In order to strengthen a SWOT analysis, be realistic about a company’s strengths and weaknesses, avoid gray areas, avoid complexity, and always analyze in relation to competitors. Other capabilities needed to complete an effective SWOT analysis include trust in group members, team diversity, and time.

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