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Help Sheet

Undertaking a SWOT analysis

When your organisation is planning for the future, you may need a prompt to start people thinking strategically. One exercise to instigate creative thought is a SWOT analysis.

SWOT Analysis - Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats

A SWOT analysis can be undertaken by the committee of management, the staff, or by your clients/members, or by all three groups (and if the groups come up with different answers, that's interesting too).

It will throw up material that can help you to think differently about the work you do and help you to change where you need to change.

A SWOT analysis creates a picture of your group or organisation and its place within it operating environment and beyond.


1. Set aside three to four hours for the task.

2. Invite no more than eight people to take part.

3. If possible, engage an outside facilitator who isn't directly involved with the people who are taking part and who is able to maintain an objective stance. It is important that uncomfortable facts and sore points are faced and group or organisational "sacred cows" are challenged. To do this properly, a facilitator will need to be briefed very carefully in advance, so that the group knows that their context is well-understood.

4. Hand out individual pages to participants. Draw a square on each and divide each into four sections. Give each of the four sections one of the following titles:

  1. Strengths;
  2. Weaknesses;
  3. Opportunities;
  4. Threats.

5. Draw a copy on the whiteboard.

6. Begin by asking your group to consider the following questions from their own points of view.

7. Have everybody fill in the list individually.

8. Transfer all of the ideas on the blackboard/whiteboard/butcher's paper together.

9. Brainstorm - there are no wrong answers, there are no stupid suggestions. Save the caution for the wind-up.

10. At the end of the session, pull all the answers together and see where they fit and where they don't. Don't just take consensus as right; leave enough time to discuss all of the ideas put forward. The aim is to allow for change, not to reinforce the norm.

11. Ask the group:


The SWOT analysis is only a part of the planning process. It is a combination of a creativity tool and a checklist. By itself, it will not give your organisation a strategic plan, nor a timetable of objectives.

The next stage is to turn your SWOT list into a series of recommendations for your organisation's leadership to consider before they develop their next strategic or business plan. Accepted recommendations may result in realigning of organisational goals and will certainly help them to focus on what actions need to be taken.

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