SWOT – your way to a better strategic plan

By: John R. Hill, Jr.


You’re new to the organization or team, or you have the responsibility to define the strategy for a group and/or product. It’s good to collect a basic set of information so that you can develop an understanding of what is going on in the organization and what factors outside of the organization should influence the your strategy. Performing a SWAT analysis will help to set that foundation. To create an effective strategy, you will benefit from developing a full awareness of many factors, positive and negative, that could affect your strategic plan and decision making processes.

What is SWOT?

SWOT stand for Strength, Weakness, Opportunity and Threats. It is a tool for collecting team opinions and facts that define the current state of the organization. Collecting this information is best performed by a diverse group of team members with different perspectives and information about the organization. A side benefit of going through this discussion is a deeper sense of team and connectedness, once a direction has been set.

A SWOT analysis is typically conducted by filling in a 4 square template that holds information for each of the 4 topic areas, but you could also just as easily make a list for each topic area. Brainstorming each one of the categories and then reducing the list to the essential set is the most frequently used process for coming to consensus on the right set of information for each category. A further refinement could be to prioritize the list so that the most important attribute in each category are at the top of the list.

Be open in the process of discovery, identifying factors both good and bad is critical to the quality of the self-assessment. Now is also a good time to talk to your customers, vendors and others, as they may provide additional insight in the positive and negative aspects of your business.

Using your SWOT

Collecting the information is only the first part of using the SWOT tool, the critical and valuable goal is to use this information to make decisions on how the organization will develop plans to move forward. Part of the directional goal of your strategy is to take advantage of your strengths and opportunities, and reduce your exposure to your weaknesses and threats.

Pairing the analysis categories has been beneficial for many teams in transitioning from the tool to a strategy:

  • How do you use your strengths to create or maximize your opportunities
  • How do you utilize your strengths the reduce your threats
  • How do you take action to minimize your weaknesses by taking advantage of your opportunities
  • How do you reduce the organizations weaknesses by avoiding threats

Be sure to regularly review your analysis and make adjustments as you learn more.

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