Ever had an annoying fly buzzing around you? You swat and swipe and you just can't get it away from you until you grab the right tool. I certainly have. Much like a fly swatter is the right tool for getting that pesky fly the swot analysis is often times the right tool to help you identify four very important elements of business, projects or venture objectives.
SWOT stands for; strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. The SWOT analysis is most commonly shown in a quadrant and views your objectives from two key "points of view," internal and external. Along with the internal and external threats you will be able to identify positive opportunities and negative factors as shown in the template below.
The Internal Strengths and Weaknesses- of an organization are generally derived from historical data that a company has collected over the years, all though they may be developed from customer experiences too. It is always a good opportunity to identify relative strengths and weaknesses of a company with the support of customers and outside help, which can be in the form of a coach or consultant. This important step helps to ensure that the data being used identifies true strengths and weaknesses. Keep in mind that the goal of the weaknesses quadrant is to find a way to transform the weaknesses identified into strengths not to simply recognize one's weaknesses.
External Opportunities and Threats- have a big impact on the sustainability of a company, market position or strategic objectives. By identifying opportunities to improve and threats that may be lurking around the corner, you have a much better chance to act sooner rather than later. The opportunities and threats quadrants are usually formulated using various types of risk analysis or reviewing previous history and analyzing trends or patterns.
You may have noticed already but there is no standard format for a SWOT template, although many will include the same basic elements.
The objective of performing a SWOT analysis is to convert threats into opportunities, opportunities into strengths and weaknesses into strengths. Some templates may switch arrows around to visually remind users of this important concept. Switching the arrows around provides a visual reminder that in our analysis we need to take action and put effort into those key conversions. Although it would not make much sense to try and convert an external threat into an internal weakness it does make sense on the other three elements of the quadrant.
The SWOT analysis is a powerful tool that can be used to analyze and strengthen organizations. Use the questions shown below for each of the 4 quadrants and you should be able to develop some very solid data worth acting on. Keep in mind you should mold the questions to fit your specific needs, however the questions below will help you get started.
1. What do we do well?
2. What do customers,vendors and outside opinions say we do well?
3. What are our core competencies, niches or skills?
1. What do other people say we should do better?
2. What are a few reasons we should not try to accomplish this mission?
3. What don't we do well?
4 What skills, knowledge and or specialties do we lack?
1. What is missing?
2. What are other people doing that we could be doing too?
3. What are the clear opportunities here today?
4. Is there anybody willing, able and ready to support (why and how)
1. What Negative patterns, trends or tendencies do you know about today?
2. What bottlenecks and or constraints are creating a gap in accomplishing your objective today?
3. Is there anyone that may be causing the gap to grow in the future?
4. Are there any competitors? What might they do that will prohibit us reaching our objective?
These questions can help you generate a good start to some better actions that will help your company. Think of the SWOT analysis as a way of gathering the current condition of each of the four categories; Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. But don't forget the SWOT analysis is only good if you DO something with it.