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Conducting a SWOT analysis

SWOT is an acronym that stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats.

Definition of the SWOT process

SWOT is essentially a process for evaluating the present condition or situation of an organisation in terms of its environment. It is important for all organisations to make use of their strengths, improve their weaknesses, recognise opportunities when they arise and eliminate threats. Performed on a regular basis, the SWOT analysis is an excellent basis for good decision making.

The following table provides a hypothetical result of a SWOT Analysis carried out by a sport organisation.

SWOT Analysis (results example)

A successful SWOT analysis requires considerable energy and commitment. Ideally it is not an activity undertaken by just one or two people in the organisation. It is best achieved when there is a wide diversity of opinion from a cross-section of organisation personnel and other stakeholders. If the SWOT analysis team is too large then the processes can be too cumbersome and slow. A team of 8-10 persons is an optimal number.

Strengths

  • The sport that the association controls is an Olympic Sport.
  • The organisation has a number of highly skilled people from a wide variety of professions and trades.

Weaknesses

  • The sport has a low profile generally and attracts few sponsors
  • The association has only a few clubs and in general they are not well organised.

Opportunities

  • The association has an opportunity to develop programs and events that can be enjoyed by a greater cross section of the population and not just the elite.
  • The association has authored some very marketable products such as books, manuals and videos.

Threats

  • The association is losing coaches and coach education programs are not functioning well.
  • The association could lose its Olympic Sport status.

The processes requires some structure but is essentially a brainstorming activity where ideas from the "SWOT team" need to be captured as quickly as possible. It may be useful to add some additional team members whose main task is to record ideas and opinions.

The structure for a SWOT analysis meeting can be very simple. Preparation for the meeting consists of procuring a white board and/or poster sized paper (on which to write ideas expressed by SWOT team members) and the developing some questions that are used to provoke thought.

There is no need to follow these questions exactly as if they were an agenda. The questions may be used to start discussion and ensure that important items are not forgotten about.

See example SWOT questions

As SWOT team members express ideas and raise points they are recorded on the white board or written on poster sized paper around the room's walls. The chairperson of the SWOT meeting should encourage the participants to discuss these views and arrive as quickly as possible at a consensus of opinion, which is then recorded.

For best results a SWOT meeting should not last more than 4 hours. Due to tiredness, there is seldom any benefit in going over this duration. Time management is therefore essential to ensure that all areas are equally covered.

Participants should be provided with refreshments and the best facility, if it can be found, is a boardroom or purpose.

As the session progresses it is essential that the information is gathered clearly and concisely for later publication to a wider audience. Although the number of SWOT session participants may be 8-10 persons, there is nothing to stop the organisation from transmitting then results to all members in a newsletter or journal so that all members have an opportunity to raise further issues.

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