SWOT analysis is a valuable tool in gaining perspective on one’s position within an environment. Whether you’re looking to launch a product, start a business, improve marketing performance, or conduct a personal career assessment, SWOT is a simple method to gain strategic insight. Let’s look as some of the critical success factors in executing a successful SWOT analysis.
Alexander Graham Bell once said, “Before anything else, preparation is the key to success.” That’s certainly true with SWOT analysis, particularly if you will be engaging stakeholders in the process. Here are some example questions to help get started.
- What are your goals? What do you seek to achieve as a result of this exercise? Are you looking for a macro level perspective affecting the entire company or a micro level view of a department?
- How broad or narrow is the scope of your SWOT analysis? It helps to establish the scope and communicate that with the participants up front.
- What types of questions to you seek to answer?
- Who are the desired participants? Is this a solo exercise or do you seek to engage a team of stakeholders, perhaps the executive team or a product team. If it’s a team SWOT analysis, here are some additional planning considerations.
- What are the analysis guidelines? How are you going to keep this a constructive, candid exercise and yet avoid negativity?
- Who will lead and facilitate the exercise? It’s often helpful to add an additional meeting facilitator to guide the discussion.
- What location will you use?
- How will you maintain the focus of the team? One consideration is meeting logistics, including duration, breaks and food.
- Develop an initial set of thought provoking questions for each of the four SWOT quadrants. These prepared questions will help you jump start the discussion.
Conduct the SWOT analysis
Since SWOT analysis typically starts as a brainstorming exercise, it’s valuable to have guidance and facilitation to ensure a positive outcome. Structure helps guide the process.
- Establish the analysis guidelines, sharing the goals of the SWOT exercise, the mechanics of how this brainstorming event will be conducted and logistics such as the length of the exercise.
- Encourage and record all ideas. Use prepared questions to help stimulate discussion and encourage ideas.
- Focus the discussion on identifying underlying factors, not symptoms.
- Prioritize and weight the number of items in each SWOT quadrant. By sorting the list, one can focus in on the most critical factors. While numerous elements in a quadrant appears impressive, the analysis is more effective with a more manageable number of results.
Translating SWOT analysis into results
Now that analysis is complete, it’s time to convert the analysis into actionable tasks. If this SWOT analysis is a planning activity, the next steps may be to modify the impacted plan. Or if the analysis is part of a refocus effort, the result may translate into operational change. Regardless of the type of SWOT analysis, value is achieved by identifying, assigning and following up on the resulting actions.
- Looking back in the context of the goals for this exercise, what are the key actions?
- Who is assigned which actions?
- What are the expected timeframes?
- How are the results to be measured?
SWOT analysis is a powerful, simple approach for business strategy. I hope this SWOT analysis checklist helps you execute your successful SWOT analysis.