I think SWOT analysis may have earned a bad reputation in some circles.  I was speaking to a new client last week and could almost see their eyes glaze over when I told him of my desire to undertake a SWOT session with his managers.  SWOT analysis should not be discounted based on prior experience of poor execution.  The key to executing an effective SWOT analysis is how deep you are prepared to dive.  Instead of simply throwing words and phrases on the whiteboard or flip chart, set up some questions and background material to help ‘churn’ some ideas and conclusions.  I usually use either Mindmanager 2012 or Mindmanager for Mac with a projector. I am the scribe so the participants can focus their energy on engaging in the process. Here are some quick tips for more effective SWOT sessions:

  • prepare the participants by providing a clear PURPOSE for the session.
  • set some ground rules for how the session will be conducted.
  • have a third party capture the inputs.
  • use visuals as well as providing post it notes, coloured pens and paper so you can add breaks for individual or small group ‘brainstorming’ and reflection sessions.
  • ask lots of questions and use the ‘5 whys’ technique; it really works to uncover reasons and root causes. I have also found it adds an element of innovation to the SWOT analysis.
  • when people start to fade in energy and attention take a break for water, stretching and food.
  • make sure every participant is provided a copy of the output.
  • add follow up tasks for further research or investigation if there is not enough clarity no a certain item or you uncover something worth pursuing immediately.
These are just a few ideas that should help you get more out of the SWOT analysis process.  The deeper you dive the more benefit you will achieve.
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