SWOT analysis (analysis of strengths and weaknesses) was developed by Igor Ansoff in his book Corporate Strategy and became a cornerstone of corporate planning. It is still used, particularly in change management, marketing and product appraisal and also in personal development.
For a consultant, it is a useful technique to use to help a group to review the organisations capabilities in terms of its internal Strengths and Weaknesses, and the external Opportunities and Threats which it faces, and then clarify the key development/change issues it needs to tackle. The process is summarised in the following diagram.
Carrying out a SWOT analysis simply involves the following:
In an Internal Appraisal,
- Strengths - identify the organisations Main Strengths - skills, capabilities, delivery, performance, etc. Select the most important - often five or six.
- Weaknesses - Then identify the teams Main Weaknesses. Again selecting the most important. This completes the Internal appraisal.
In an External Appraisal,
- Opportunities - identify Main Opportunities that face the organisation. Again selecting the most important.
- Threats - And then Main Threats that face the organisation. Again selecting the most important.
By this stage it usually becomes clear what issues confront the organisation. To prioritise, complete the analysis by asking the following questions.
- For each Opportunity - which strength helps us to take advantage of this, and which weakness inhibits us from doing so.
- For each Threat - which strength helps us to fight this, and which weakness inhibits us from doing so.
The confrontation can be best done as a team exercise, developing a confrontation matrix as illustrated below. Here the balance of + and - signs highlights quite clearly what are the main issues that should be addressed within the team.
This can be carried out by an individual but is best done with a group - management team, working group, project team, or focus group. We have carried it out with a group of fifty - the whole senior management of an operation using the following process.
SWOT analysis using cards or Post-its
- Each person to identify what they see as our Main Strengths and to write these on the post-its which are then struck to a board.
- When all post-its are on the chart, the team groups together any duplications that exist.
- Each person has 5 votes to indicate what they feel are the most important of all the strengths identified on the Chart. Simply tick those 5 post-its which you feel are the most important.
- When everybody has voted, the post-its with the most votes are kept. The remainder put aside for the time being.
- Those on the board represent what the group feels are our main strengths.
The whole process from is then repeated for
- our perceived Weaknesses.
- the main Opportunities for the operation
- the main Threats which it faces
The cards for the main strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats are then used to create a SWOT Confrontation Matrix as above, which is in turn used to identify the organisations' key change issues.