How to do a SWOT Analysis
Dr Heinz Weihrich introduced the earlier version of the SWOT analysis, the "TOWS Matrix" in 1982. TOWS stands for Threats|Opportunities|Weaknesses|Strengths – SWOT is simply a rearrangement of these, reflecting the need to assess your current situation and reflect internally (ie your strengths and weaknesses) before you can look to the future and explore externally (opportunities and threats).
The SWOT format can be used to assess almost anything – from a personal SWOT analysis for goal setting, to SWOT analyses of business opportunities and technical solutions to problems.
So once you’ve grasped the SWOT analysis concept, you’ll have a very useful decision making tool under your belt.
Keep reading to find out more.
Personal SWOT Analysis
A personal SWOT analysis is a look at you and your life. It will help you identify where you need to improve, and more importantly allows you to identify your internal strengths that you can capitalize on to seize your opportunities and thwart any external threats.
For this reason, it is an important step in personal goal setting – a step that shouldn’t be overlooked.
A template for a personal SWOT analysis for goal setting is available in the ToolBOX as part of the Free Life Planning Workbook, and essentially asks you:
- What are your abilities, skills talents in this area?
- Do you have any specialist knowledge in this area?
- What resources do you have that support this strength?
- Who can you ask for advice, support or help?
- What is already working well in this area?
- What personal behavioural traits do you have that are strengths in this area?
- Do your intelligence preferences indicate a strength in this area?
- What are your main limitations in this area?
- What skills/ abilities are needed in this area that you don’t have?
- Are there any resources (money, time, help) that you don't have that you really need?
- What is not working in this area right now?
- What personal behavioural traits do you have that are weaknesses in this area?
- Do your intelligence preferences indicate a weakness in this area?
- Does your motivational need level according to Maslow indicate a deficiency?
- What opportunities (dreams, wishes, goals) have you been considering in this area?
- Do your personality/ intelligence preferences or motivational needs indicate any opportunities that you haven’t previously considered?
- What could you improve in this result area for you? List as many ‘goals’ as you can – which one or two will have the most impact on this aspect of your life?
- How can you take advantage of your strengths to pursue these?
- Do you have any weaknesses that may impede these goals?
- What major change do you need in your life to improve this area?
- Are there any special tools you can use or develop to help?
- What external threats (changes to income, events, etc) could affect you negatively? How could these affect you?
- Are you facing any risks in this area if you continue along your current path? What are they – list them all. What would happen if these risks took place?
- What obstacles or roadblocks are in your way?
- Do your personality/ intelligence preferences or motivational needs indicate any threats that you haven’t previously considered?
- Do any of your weaknesses increase the level of these threats or the impact?
- What strengths do you have that could help you reduce the identified threats?
The outcome you want from the SWOT analysis is a list of:
- What opportunities are best for you to pursue
- What internal strengths you can use to enhance your pursuit of these opportunities
- What threats you need to eliminate/ minimise
- What internal strengths you can use to overcome these threats
- What strengths you should consider making stronger to further enhance your ability to pursue your goals
- What weaknesses you need to improve on, or manage, so that they don’t impede your goal setting.
Technical SWOT Analysis
Similar to the personal SWOT, a technical SWOT analysis can be conducted using the same triggers of Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. This form of analysis can be used to assess the viability of business cases and ventures, or to compare different technical options.
Depending on what’s being analysed, the sub-triggers under each of the main SWOT headings will vary and should be established before the actual SWOT commences.
Typical sub-triggers for technical and business SWOT analyses include political, environmental, economic, social, technical, resources and ethics. And of course, these sub-triggers can form a number of acronyms such as:
- PEST – Political, Economic, Social, Technical.
- STEEP – Social, Technical, Economic, Environmental, Political.
- STEEPER - Social, Technical, Economic, Environmental, Political, Ethics, Resources.
In business, you may hear someone say they’re going to do say a STEEP SWOT analysis – this just means that they are doing a SWOT analysis using the STEEP acronym as triggers under each of the main SWOT headings.
In this case, when the “strengths” of the particular object of analysis are being considered, the strengths of the object in terms of Social strengths, Technical strengths, Economic strengths, Environmental strengths and Political strengths will be considered. And so on for weaknesses, opportunities and threats.
Templates for these technical SWOT analyses are provided in the ToolBOX, under Decision Making and Problem Solving.