The SWOT analysis is one of the most common diagnostic tools used in business. Its four simple perspectives provide a framework which is easy to follow and yet the tool is so often misunderstood.
SWOT – Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats.
The Strengths and Weaknesses are internal factors, the opportunities and threats are external factors. Some advocate the use of PRIMO-F to identify Strengths and Weaknesses and PESTLE for external factors…
Simple rules for a successful SWOT analysis
- Be realistic about the strengths and weaknesses of your organization
- The Analysis should distinguish between where your organization is today, and where it could be in the future.
- Be specific. Avoid grey areas
- Always analyse in relation to your competition i.e. better than or worse than your competition
- Keep your SWOT short and simple – but only as short and simple as the application or situation demands – it is about ‘fitness for purpose’
- Avoid unnecessary complexity and over analysis
- There is little point in listing an Opportunity (O) if the same opportunity is available to competitors
- It is pointless to say you have Strengths (S) if your competitors have the same
The Top 5 mistakes:
- An unclear goal
- Maintaining too narrow of a focus
- Neglecting input from others
- Performing an analysis only once
- Reliance on SWOT as a holistic diagnostic strategy
A concise SWOT Analysis
Keep your SWOT analysis short and focused. If it becomes too long-winded, you’ll soon forget some of the more important points and it will become less effective in the long term.
Great SWOT Strengths
When considering your SWOT strengths, it’s all too easy to congratulate yourself and identify what you think it is that makes you great. Instead, flip the coin and consider what it is that your customers do/will think are your strengths.
Having written a long list of SWOT based strengths for your organization, it’s also very easy to become a bit jaded and quickly fly over your weakness, without a critical eye. As a result, count up the number of SWOT based strengths, and then write twice as many weakness. This will force you to take a deeper look at the areas that you need to improve.
By considering your SWOT analysis based opportunities, you get to play god with your future. It’s all too easy to look at opportunities with rose-tinted glasses and predict opportunities that don’t actually exist. Instead, look at the opportunities that are available to you today.
Again, as with SWOT weaknesses, when you consider your SWOT threats, you have to take a cold hearted look at some of the things that you’d probably rather ignore.
The SWOT is a valuable tool that in the right hands and with the appropriate level of effort can provide a valuable insight into current and future strategy.
Remember to consider the results of the SWOT analysis as just one tool in a variety of analysis methods that can form together to create a more realistic analysis of your organization
A SWOT analysis is a valuable diagnostic tool, but it is only as good as the data and context considered. Remember, keep the analysis real, in context and focussed on the goal you are seeking.
When using a SWOT analysis, always use the PRIMO-F & PEST or PESTLE analysis profiles to ensure all factors are covered.
For more on SWOT analysis read our other articles.