SWOT analysis is an excellent planning method to utilize for a business plan, business venture or project for any type of organization - nonprofit, government or for profit firms. A SWOT analysis can help an organization determine the feasibility and fit of a strategy, project or plan before it is launched.
SWOT stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.
- Strengths: characteristics of the business or project that give it an advantage over others
- Weaknesses: are characteristics that place the team at a disadvantage relative to others
- Opportunities: elements that the project could exploit to its advantage
- Threats: elements in the environment that could cause trouble for the business or project
 SWOT Process Summary
A SWOT analysis is easiest if conducted with a group from your organization. The brainstorming nature of the exercise lends itself to a group where multiple sources of information, viewpoints and synergistic generation of ideas and analysis occur.
A retreat or dedicated planning session creates the focus and allows the time needed for this process.
A professional with experience in conducting a SWOT analysis can be a good facilitator for groups new to the method.
Strengths and weaknesses are an internal of the positives and negatives inside the organization. Opportunities and threats are an exploration of the outside environment and forces and factors impacting the organization.
The first step is creating the analysis and list of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.
Second, prioritize the most important items in each list.
Third, explore how the SWOT analysis relates to the current and future strategies and plans of the organization.
- Are they realistic and feasible?
- How will the organization build on its most important strengths?
- How will the organization address its top weaknesses?
- How will the organization capitalize on the most promising opportunities?
- How will the organization deal with important threats that have been identified?
 Related Best Practices
- Business Plan for an Ongoing Business
- Business Plan for a Startup
- Building a Business Plan – New SBA Online Tool
- Strategy Map
 Other Resources
- Wikipedia has an informative page on the history and background of Wikipedia : SWOT analysis
- The Community Tool Box discusses applying the SWOT analysis in a non-profit setting in English and Spanish
- Professor Louise Klusek at Baruch College provides free SWOT analysis tools
- BusinessBalls.com provides extensive free discussion, directions and downloadable tools on how to apply and use the SWOT analysis
The author of this article is Terry Gardiner.
Terry Gardiner is the founder and President of Silver Lining Seafoods and NorQuest Seafoods - a medium size Alaska seafood processing companies; and currently Board member of the Anvil Corporation, an employee owned company specializing in oil and gas engineering.
His co-operative experiences include member director of the Commercial Fishermen Co-operative association; creation of legislation for the Alaska Commercial Fishing and Agriculture Bank; and advisor to the US Dept of Health and Social Services for the state Health CO-OPs.
Terry served ten years as a member of the Alaska House of Representatives -several legislative committee chairmanships, Speaker of the House, Chairman of the Alaska Criminal Code Commission and board member on various state and federal boards and commissions.
Terry authored the leadership book, "Six-Word Lessons to Build Effective Leaders: 100 Lessons to Equip Your People to Create Winning Organizations".