SWOT Analysis

Brief Description

SWOT is an acronym for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats.
Strengths and Weaknesses are internal factors, while Opportunities and Threats are external factors that can have an effect on you, your organizational unit and or your projects.


While it is not known exactly who developed the first SWOT analysis it is believed that many different professors in the East coast of the USA are responsible for developing the way that we look at it now.

When to use

SWOT Analysis is a simple but useful framework for analyzing the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats that you face in your organization especially when about to start a new project, engage in a restructuring, undergo a mid term evaluation, etc. It can also be used in project planning and eventually evaluation of its activities at various intervals. This plan can help you focus on main strengths and leverage them to pursue key opportunities and to avoid threats . The team can also become aware of its weaknesses which might need to be overcome in order to take the greatest possible advantage of potential opportunities available to you.

How to use

The SWOT chart to the right is a useful tool for everyone including team members and managers. When developing your personal SWOT chart look and think in-depth about how each area effects your department and even you personally. Share the chart with colleagues in order to get feedback and different suggestions until the chart is full with thoughts. This will then enable you to refine it and, ultimately, implement it into your organization and/or project.

When developing your own personal SWOT chart, ask several interrogative questions similar to the examples provided below for each of the four areas of a SWOT.

  • How can I leverage them to benefit my goals?
  • What are my/ our advantages?
  • What do we/ I do better than others?
  • What makes me/ my organization/ department unique?
  • What makes our project unique?
  • What low-cost resources can be utilized?
  • Are there any people that bring strengths?

  • How can I minimize or eliminate the potential for these to harm me?
  • What could be improved?
  • What could be avoided slightly and altogether?
  • What factors are seen as weaknesses in your area?
  • What necessary expertise/ skills do we currently lack?

  • What could be utilized better while aiming to eliminate current weaknesses and/ or threats?
  • Where are the good opportunities and what are they?
  • Are there currently any trends in your field that we can build on or include?
  • Are there any potential opportunities you know of but are unable to capitalize on due to lack of resources? How could you overcome them and use them to your advantage?

Potential opportunities can come from many things, such as:
  • Changes in technology
  • Adjustments in local or governmental policies
  • Alterations in social patterns, population profiles, lifestyle changes, etc.
  • Local growth and development.

  • Evaluate prospective threats and identify potential solutions as well as your ability to overcome them.
  • What obstacles are evident on a daily basis? On a yearly basis?
  • What are other organizations working in your field doing?
  • Are any specific areas in your field changing? Will this changes affect us in any way? Or could possibly be changing in the future? Will new developments in technology seriously affect the current plan?
  • Could any of your weaknesses harm or completely incapacitate your abilities?

Tips and Lessons Learnt

  • Group work is positive; it can bring more and new ideas to the table that you may not have thought of one your own.
  • Try a brain storming session in order to bring together and formulate multiple ideas and refinement of these ideas thought discussions.
  • Breakdown points into smaller, more realistic and achievable results.
  • Make sure your SWOT is definable, measurable, and clear.
  • There are limitations in SWOT, it will not fix anything unless you aim to actually apply and utilize what you have defined.
  • When developing your SWOT in groups, it can be beneficial to designate a facilitator that will keep the group on track during the process.
  • Remember that the first stage is a great way to get a large range of different backgrounds and perspectives that can be then narrowed down.
  • Group similar suggestions together.
  • SWOT’s can be fun but you must define likely scenarios as well as your strategic plan in order to capitalize on the results.

Examples & Stories

(add your story)

Who can tell me more?

  • Nohea Reveley-Mahan (nohea.reveleymahan [at] fao.org)

Related Methods / Tools / Practices

The Six Forces Model is a market opportunities analysis model.
Developed as an extension on [[http: www.ask.com/wiki/Michael_Porter?qsrc=3044|Porter's]] [[http: www.ask.com/wiki/Porter_5_forces_analysis?qsrc=3044|Five Forces Model]].
The six forces are identified as:
  • Competition
  • New entrants
  • End users/Buyers
  • Suppliers
  • Substitutes
  • Complementary products/ The government/ The public

STEER looks at :
  • Socio-cultural
  • Technological
  • Economic
  • Ecological
  • Regulatory factors



Development, SWOT, Change, Project, evaluation, problem solving, strategic planning,method, analysis

Photo or image credits

http: www.freshthinkingbusiness.com/swot-analysis.html

Page Authors

Nohea Reveley-Mahan (nohea.reveleymahan[at] fao.org)