5 Using the SWOT analysis for decision making

The act of completing your SWOT analysis template may bring some revelations in itself, but you’ll also need to work with the completed tool to get the most value from the whole SWOT analysis process.

Consider the obvious natural priorities:

  • Are you doing everything you can to make the most of your strengths?
  • What ‘quick wins’ can you implement straight away?
  • Within your weaknesses, what could you start or stop doing straight away that would make a positive change?
  • Are there any weakness so urgent that you need to remedy them before considering any other actions?

Consider how your strengths align with the opportunities:

  • Are there any surprises that you need to explore in more detail?
  • How are you going to prioritise the right opportunities for you, for example, ‘quick wins’ or long-term gain?
  • What are the opportunities that don’t involve your weaknesses?

Consider how your weaknesses align with the threats:

  • Does this highlight any vulnerabilities you weren’t aware of?
  • Can anything be turned into an opportunity, for example, is it time to stop pursuing something you’re not very good at and focus resources elsewhere?
  • Will your colleagues agree with this analysis or are they in denial about the weaknesses and threats?

Consider any other potential matches:

  • Are any threats balanced by opportunities, for example, as one supplier closes is another opening?

Reflect on the overall message of your SWOT analysis. It should give you a deeper understanding of an issue that can then contribute to your decision-making process. Sometimes it will raise more questions than it answers, and you might need to go around the loop several times to deal with what is raised before you can focus on the original issue.

Depending on the context in which you are working, it can sometimes be helpful to return to a SWOT analysis after a break and compare the situation then and now according to the actions you have taken.

4 Completing the SWOT analysis

5.1 SWOT analysis: a case study