SWOT Analysis

Strengths – Weaknesses – Opportunities – Threats

A SWOT analysis provides programs and organizations with a clear, easy-to-read map of internal and external factors that may help or harm a project, by listing and organizing a project’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. SWOT can clearly show a program its chances for success, given present environmental factors.

SWOTImage: The Principles of Successful Freelancing

How to Perform a SWOT Analysis

Create a chart with columns titled "Helpful" and "Harmful," and rows titled "Internal" and "External." Sort out factors that impact your organization, and place them in the appropriate rows/columns:

  Helpful (Positive Impact) Harmful (Negative Impact)
Internal

Strengths include:

  • Characteristics of the organization that will help it achieve successful outcome or reach goals
  • Resources, capabilities that will contribute to success

Weaknesses include:

  • Characteristics of the organization that might hinder successful outcome / reaching goals
  • Absences of strengths
  • "Flip sides" of strengths
  • Things to avoid when executing program
  • Factors contributing to past failures
  • What other organizations might do better than yours
  • "Achilles Heels"
External

Opportunities include:

  • Environmental factors that might influence/contribute to successful outcome
  • Unfulfilled / open niches not served by other programs (unmet customer need)
  • Upcoming changes to status quo (regulatory, political, social, etc.)
  • Chances made possible by unique strengths / eliminating weaknesses (?)
  • Factors: Political, Economic, Sociocultural, Technological

Threats include:

  • Environmental factors that might prevent successful outcome
  • Upcoming changes to status quo (regulatory, political, social, etc.)
  • Factors: Political, Economic, Sociocultural, Technological


Remember:

  • Try to look at your organization from an external perspective, even when assessing internal factors: What would others say about your organization?
  • Try to verify/quantify statements when possible, rather than making general statements about your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats
  • You may end up with what seems like too many factors to consider, at which point it might be helpful to start prioritizing them
  • Consider: How can you convert weaknesses into strengths? Use strengths to overcome threats? Use strengths to maximize opportunities? Use strengths to compensate for or minimize weaknesses?
  • SWOT analyses can be performed on multiple levels of an organization: Might it be more helpful to perform one just on your program? division? a specific process?

Further Reading

More Information

Icon Mind Tools: SWOT Analysis
Icon Bplans.com: How to Perform SWOT Analysis

Examples: SWOT Analysis

Icon Business Owner's Toolkit: Case Study: Life Designs Architecture
Icon CPS HR Consulting: SWOT Analysis Examples (PDF: 71KB / 6 pages)