Processes and Phases of SWOT Model


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1.         Establish the Objectives

The first step in any management project is to be clear about what you are doing and why. The purpose of carrying out a SWOT analysis may be wide or narrow, general or specific – anything from getting staff to think about and understand the business better, to the re-thinking of a strategy or the overall direction of the organization.

2.         Select Appropriate Contributors

This is important if the final recommendations are to result from consultation and discussion, not just personal views, however the expertise possessed.

  • Pick a mix of specialists and “ideas” people with the ability and enthusiasm to contribute.
  • Consider how appropriate it would be to mix staff of different grades.
  • Think about numbers. Six to ten people may be enough, especially in SWOT workshop, but up to 25 or 30 can be useful if one of the aims is to help staff see the need for change.

3.         Allocate Research and Information Gathering Tasks

Background preparation is vital if the subsequent analysis is to be accurate, and should be divided among the SWOT participants. Preparation can be carried out in two stages: exploratory, followed by data collection and a focused analysis.

  • Gathering information on strength and weaknesses should focus on the internal factors of skills, resources and assets or the lack of them.
  • Gathering information on opportunities and threats should focus on the external factors over which you have little or no control, such as social, market or economic trends.

However, you will need to be aware of and take account of the inter-relationships between internal and external factors.

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4.         Create a Workshop Environment

If the compilation and recording of SWOT lists take place in meetings, make sure that you exploit the benefits of workshop sessions. Foster an atmosphere conducive to the free flow of information, and encourage participants to say what they feel is appropriate, without fearing or attributing blame. The leader or facilitator has a key role and should allow time for thought, but not so much as to let the discussion stagnate. Half an hour is often enough to spend on strengths, for example, before moving on. It is important to be specific, evaluative and analytical at the stage of compiling and recording the SWOT lists – mere description is not enough.

5.         List Strengths

It is often harder to identify strengths and weaknesses. Questions such as the following can be helpful:

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  • What do we do better than anyone else?
  • What advantages do we have?
  • What do others see as our strong points?

Strengths may relate to the organisation, the environment, market share, public reputation and to people – including the skills and knowledge of staff, as well as reasons for past successes.

Other people strengths include:

  • Friendly, cooperative and supportive staff.
  • A staff development and training scheme.
  • Appropriate levels of involvement through delegation and trust.

Organisational strengths may include:

  • Customer loyalty
  • Capital investment and a strong balance sheet.
  • Effective cost control programmes.
  • Efficient procedures and systems.
  • Well-developed corporate social responsibility policies.

6.         List Weaknesses

This session should not be seen as an opportunity to slate the organisation but as an honest appraisal of the way things are. Be careful not to take weaknesses at face value but to identify the underlying causes:

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Key questions include:

  • What obstacles prevent progress?
  • What needs improving?
  • Where are complaints coming from?
  • Are there any weak links in the chain?

The list might include:

  • Lack of new product or services.
  • Declining sales of main or most popular products.
  • Poor competitiveness and higher prices.
  • Non-compliance with or ignorance of appropriate legislation.
  • Financial or cash-flow problems.
  • Lack of awareness of mission, objectives or policies.
  • Regular staff absence.
  • No method for monitoring success or failure.

It is not unusual for “people” problems – poor communication, inadequate leadership, lack of motivation, too little delegation, absence of trust – to feature among the major weaknesses.

At this point, you’re well on your way to knowing how to perform a step by step SWOT analysis. Your SWOT matrix should be looking like this:

An example SWOT matrix.

8.         List Opportunities

The step is designed to assess, among others, the socio-economic, political, environmental and demographic features, which affect organisational performance. The aim is to identify circumstances, which the organisation can exploit and to evaluate the possible benefits to the organisations.

Examples include:

  • Technological developments
  • New markets
  • Change of government
  • Changes in interest rates
  • Demographic trends
  • Strengths and weaknesses of competitors.

Bear in mind that opportunities may be time-limited and consider how the organisation may make the most of them.

9. List Threats

Threats are the opposite of opportunities – all the factors listed above may, with a shift of emphasis or perception, also have an adverse impact.

Here the questions to ask include:

  • What obstacles do we face?
  • What are our competitors doing?
  • What resource problem do we have?

Threats may include:

  • Unemployment levels
  • Environmental legislation
  • An outdated or obsolete product range.
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It is important to look at a worst-case scenario. However, this should not be allowed to foster pessimism, but should rather be seen as a question of considering how possible damage may be limited or eliminated. Most external factors are in fact challenges, and whether staff perceives them as opportunities or threats is often a valuable indicator of morale.

10.       Evaluate Listed Ideas against Objectives

With the lists compiled, sort and group facts and ideas in relation to your objectives. Consider which of the factors listed are of major importance and which are negligible. It may be necessary for the SWOT participants to select their five most important items from the list in order to gain a wider perspective. The key to this process is clarity of objectives, as evaluation and elimination will be necessary to cull the wheat from the chaff. Although some aspects may require further investigation or research, a clear picture should start to emerge at this stage. Processes and Phases of SWOT Model

11.       Carry Your Findings Forward

Make sure that the results of the analysis are integrated into any subsequent planning and strategy development. Revisit your findings at suitable intervals to check that they are still valid. Processes and Phases of SWOT Model

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