A SWOT audit (strength, weakness, opportunities, threats) is a tool used to recognize growth options for an organization while helping to define the culture, mission, and vision. It may also be used to focus a team on key issues. Knowing your organizations, teams, and your strengths and weaknesses will help you guide your team in the most productive ways.

To improve anything, or anyone, you must first have a clear understanding of what needs improving. Begin by distributing copies of the SWOT Analysis Form (See below) to your team. After all have completed the survey, schedule a meeting.

SWOT Analysis Form

An answer is not required for every question. Hopefully a few questions will spur ideas and begin the thought process.
Name (please print) ______________________________
Department ____________________________________
Date _________________________________________

Strengths
• What do we do well?
• What advantages does our organization have?
• What resources do we have—money, equipment, creativity, customer base, etc.?
• What are our strengths, by individual, department, or companywide?
• What is outstanding about our business?
• What do we do well that with a little improvement could be a real strength?
• What are our most competitive products or services?

Weaknesses
• What are obvious areas for improvement?
• What do we do badly?
• What areas need immediate improvement?
• Based on our past mistakes, what should we avoid in the future? What else should be avoided?

Opportunities
• What are interesting trends?
• What has recently changed that is new in our industry or new to us?
• What strengths open up new opportunities?
• What weaknesses, through development, could lead to opportunities?
• What niches have our competitors missed?
• Are there new technologies that the company can use to innovate?
• What can we do that no one else does or does as well?
• Where can we find or create a competitive edge?

Threats
• What obstacles do we face?
• What and who is our competition?
• What internal or external processes are changing?
• Could one of our weaknesses be a serious threat? How can we neutralize that threat?
• What are our competitors doing better than we are?
• Are there negative political, economic, or technological trends that may hurt us?

Combinations
• How can we use our strengths to enable opportunities we have identified?
• How can we use our strengths to overcome threats?
• What do we need to do to overcome identified weaknesses in order to take advantage of opportunities?
• How can we minimize weaknesses to overcome threats?
• How can our strengths help overcome, reduce, or eliminate our weaknesses?
• What weaknesses expose the greatest threat and how do we improve the weakness?
• What threats could reduce our opportunities?
• What opportunities could overcome threats?

Facilitating a SWOT Audit

After all team members have completed the SWOT Analysis form, bring them together for a meeting. When the team is given expectations this meeting can be conducted in an hour or a little more depending on the size of the team. I’d recommending holding the size to ten or less.

• Prepare team members before the meeting by asking each to bring one strength, weakness, opportunity, and threat to discuss.
• Begin the discussion on strengths and then go around the room asking each team member the key they chose and why.
• List each on a whiteboard or have the team write each on a notepad.
• Proceed through the entire SWOT in this fashion.
• Ask what strengths need to be maintained, built upon, or leveraged?
• Ask what weaknesses need to be remedied, changed, or stopped?
• Ask what opportunities need to be prioritized, built on, and optimized?
• Ask what threats need to be countered, minimized?
• Have the team review their notes or look at the list on the whiteboard and ask them each of the combination questions. For example, “How can we use our strengths to enable opportunities we have identified?”
• Have the team choose an action to begin immediately, one to start in 30 days and another at 90 days.
• Set follow-up times on each initiative, which may include a follow-up meeting.

Why Conduct a SWOT Audit?

A SWOT audit can help any organization recognize and use their strengths, confront their weaknesses, realize opportunities, and understand threats to the organization. If you have any questions, leave a comment. Are you ready to SWOT it out of the park?

You can find this post and more on problem solving in my book, The New Manager’s Workbook a crash course in effective management, Many organizations, large and small, use my book as the basis for their leadership development program. Does your business have a  management training plan?