SWOT Analysis- a brief users guide

By Bradley Russell,2014-05-17 02:52
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SWOT Analysis is a strategic planning tool used to evaluate the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats involved in a project or venture.

    A Brief User Guide To

    The Creation And Use Of A SWOT Analysis

Rus Slater


    How to use this book Sorry to insult your intelligence by starting off with a “How to..” on something as simple as using a book, but not

    everyone has used an e-book before so there may well be some features that you are not familiar with.

    Firstly it is best to use this book on-screen, you don’t have to be on-line as it is self-contained, but using it on-screen, rather than printing it off and using it like a traditional book, offers several advantages;

    ? The bookmarks work

    ? It saves paper

    ? You won’t lose it

    ? All the colour works rather than disappearing into greyscale


    There are “bookmarks” throughout the text, a bookmark appears in blue and is underlined; This is an example bookmark.

    When you put the cursor over a bookmark and left click it takes you to the relevant text. Do it with the example in

    the line above

    Once you have used a bookmark it turns from blue underlined to purple underlined for the rest of that session.

    SWOT Analysis-

    a brief users guide to creating and using a SWOT Analysis

     What it is and where it came from

     Strengths Weaknesses

     Where/when it works well

How to turn SWOT into a plan

     Opportunities Threats

     How to carry out a SWOT

     Preparing to SWOT

     What it is and where it came from SWOT Analysis is a strategic planning tool used to evaluate the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats involved

     in a project or venture.

It involves:

    1. Specifying the objective of the venture or project and

    2. Identifying the internal and external factors that are favourable and unfavourable to achieving that objective.

The technique is credited to Albert Humphrey, who led a research project at Stanford University in the 1960s and 1970s using

    data from Fortune 500 companies.

     Where/when it works well The usefulness of SWOT analysis is not limited to profit-seeking organisations. SWOT analysis may be used in any decision-making and planning situation when a desired objective has been defined. Examples include:

    ? Corporate planning at board, department and team level

    ? non-profit organisations for general strategy and fundraising planning

    ? governmental departments at all levels, and

    ? individuals, for both business and private lives, particularly career planning

Preparing to SWOT

Before you go too far….

    Conducting a SWOT analysis before defining and agreeing upon an objective is almost always doomed to serious problems. A SWOT analysis should not exist in the abstract, if it does it will produce no value but will have wasted time and will damage the credibility of the person who started/oversaw the process.


    If the desired end state is not openly defined and agreed upon, the participants may have different end states in mind and the

    results will be ineffective.

Opportunities external to the subject are often confused with strengths internal to the subject. They should be kept separate.

SWOTs are sometimes erroneously viewed as an end in themselves. They are not. SWOTs are descriptions of conditions, and as

    such the critical thing is to go on to the next stage, which is to look at each description of a condition and ask “So what?” or “S’wot?”

The component parts of the SWOT are:

    ? Strengths: attributes of the organisation that are helpful to achieving the objective.

    ? Weaknesses: attributes of the organisation that are harmful to achieving the objective

    ? Opportunities: external conditions that are helpful to achieving the objective

    ? Threats: external conditions that are harmful to achieving the objective

Getting together a SWOT Team

    Ideally a cross-functional team or a task force that represents a broad range of perspectives, related to the objective, should carry out the SWOT analysis. For example, a SWOT team for the launch of a new service or product may include; a sales person, a

    product design or service delivery specialist, a manager who will be responsible for the product/service as part of his/her annual KPIs, and someone from the finance function who will pay/invoice for the product/service .

     How to carry out a SWOT

1. Once you have got your team together and you have defined and agreed your objective you are ready to start SWOTting.

    2. Traditionally people use a flipchart and divide it into four quadrants; this has advantages and disadvantages;

    ~On the plus side this neatly shows the whole thing on one page but;

    ~On the minus side it tends to constrain you to a relatively small space for each aspect; once you have filled that space

    folk want to move on to the next but you may not have a comprehensive analysis. 3. Use four pages of A1, each marked with the title of a component of SWOT, each stuck to a different wall of your meeting

    room. Give each person a Post-it pad and ask him or her to complete one note for each item, putting them on the relevant


    4. Once you have exhausted your individual minds of ideas, examine each Post-it as a group.

    5. Discuss each one, grouping similar/same points together and ensuring that everyone understands what the writer of each

    Post-it meant. Check that you have got them on the right page. Challenge what might be “glib” or “political” comments

    (almost every SWOT has, under “Strengths”, “Our reputation”….is our reputation a strength, really, or should we accept that

    it is actually a bit tarnished?

    6. Discard any repetition Post-its

    7. Once everyone is happy that you have assessed and analysed all contributions put all the pages on the same wall.

    8. Take a moment to ask yourselves what we may have missed.

    9. Agree who when and how you are going to complete your next step (this is turning the SWOT into a plan.)

    10. Get it typed up before all the Post-its fall off!


     How to turn SWOT into a plan

Identification of SWOTs is essential because subsequent steps in the process of planning for achievement of the selected objective

    are to be derived from the SWOTs.

The people who are going to plan may or may not be the people who carried out the SWOT, this will depend on the circumstance

    and the style of your organisation.

    1. The decision makers have to determine whether the objective is attainable, given the SWOTs.

    If the objective is NOT attainable a different objective must be selected and the process started afresh

    2. If, on the other hand, the objective seems attainable, then we must look at each individual SWOT condition and ask “S’Wot?”

    the SWOTs are used as inputs to the creative generation of possible strategies, by asking and answering each of the

    following four questions, many times:

    ~ S’wot can we do to Use each Strength to achieve our goal?

    ~ S’wot can we do to Stop each Weakness hindering our reaching our goal?

    ~ S’wot can we do to Exploit each Opportunity to move towards our goal?

    ~ S’wot can we do to Defend against each Threat that endangers our chances of achieving our goal?

    We should question to five times depth……For example, if under Weaknesses we have listed,

    ” we ask

    “So What?” the answer will be

    “We need to obtain such staff or skills” so we ask

    “Can we train people in these skills in time?” the answer is

    “Yes”, we ask,

    “How much will that cost?” the answer is

    “?X,000” so we ask

    “Could we afford that?” the answer is

    “Yes” so we aks

    “Is it worth doing it in relation to the benefit?” the answer is Continued below, scroll down


     “S’wot..” will probably generate a number of options and from these we can either choose the course of action we will take and develop a direct SMART objective, or we might need to set an indirect SMART objective to consider the options and then decide on our course of action.

    EG Direct SMART could be

    “We will relocate the function to X, this will be completed by DD/MM/YYYY. It is the responsibility of the Z Team” Or Indirect SMART

    “Z team will assess the relative Cost/Benefits of either relocating or updating the function. They will present their recommendation to the Board on DD/MM/YYYY.

    Using bookmarks

So here you are reading the first bookmarked text, when you have finished reading it, or

    completing the answer, you want to go back to where you were in the book;

    Look at the top left of your screen

    You should see and icon that looks like this

Put your cursor over it (not the example above but the one in the top left of the screen)

    and right click it to return to your place

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