There are a few things to do before we get into the SWOT analysis form. The first is to define what a SWOT analysis does, and how to best use it.
A SWOT analysis can be used in any decision-making situation when a desired end-state (objective) is defined. It can be used for business and individual situations. The key is to define the end-state clearly, and to make it “NOT Business As Usual”.
You will get better answers with a clear end-state, than if the goal is vague, like “I want my business to do better”. A more powerful way of stating that goal might be “I want to improve my business profitability”.
Then you can look at all the specific things that create profit, and those that kill profit.
The point of the SWOT template is to figure out
- What you have going for you to achieve that goal (Strengths)
- What you need to change (Weaknesses)
- How you’re going to take advantage of opportunities (Opportunities)
- What factors outside your control might derail you (Threats)
It’s critical to remember that the SWOT template is just one method of defining and categorising and has its own weaknesses.
For example, you might be tempted to compile lists rather than to think about actual important factors in achieving your objectives.
It also presents the resulting lists uncritically and without clear priorities so that, for example, weak opportunities may appear to balance strong threats.
Like any tool, it must be used very carefully, so that you don’t end up getting a “false positive” reading.