At times in the course of a project or an organization’s history, it is helpful to engage in strategic long range planning. Doing so can allow an initiative’s leadership to take stock of the issues currently impacting it, as well as the broader context in which it exists, and , with that information, prepare to act, as necessary, to continue fulfilling its purpose or mission.
A quick and relatively simple way to start a strategic planning process is to collect the group’s ideas on the strengths and weaknesses of the project or organization itself and the opportunities and threats that face the group from the outside.
Kelsey and Plumb (2004) summarize: “SWOT analysis is a tool for analyzing the current situation both internally (strengths and weaknesses) and externally (opportunities and threats). It provides the baseline for a group that wants to vision the future or analyze a problem.” Some people use the term “problems” instead of “weaknesses”, and call the process “SPOT analysis.”
SWOT Analysis is most effective when it involves an interactive group process; that is, group members work together to identify and discuss internal and external circumstances.
This can be accomplished in several basic steps (Ricketts, 2013):
- Determine the subject that will be analyzed through the SWOT process (e.g., a project or organization).
- Choose the subject’s objective that will guide the analysis (e.g.: continuing a mission or something more specific)
- Ask members of the group to identify (and record in a table like that above) specific strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.
- Analyze the results
Once the results have been analyzed, the group can use the results of the analysis as a starting point for thoughtful discussion about how to best move the initiative forward towards its objectives in ways that maximize or capitalize on its strengths and make the most of its opportunities, while minimizing weaknesses and avoiding or addressing threats. As the group examines the data, it may discover where it stands and what it needs to do or work on to get to where it wants to go.
For more information about SWOT Analysis as a tool for organizational development, see Using a SWOT Analysis – Taking a Look at Your Organization, a publication of the University of Kentucky: Ricketts (2013).
Kelsey and Plumb. (2004) Great Meetings! Great Results. Portland, ME: Great Meeting. pp. 69, 98-99.