Swot Analysis


Also known as: Internal-External Analysis, SWOT Matrix, IE Matrix

What is a SWOT analysis?

A SWOT analysis aims to identify the internal and external factors that are favourable and unfavourable to achieving the objectives of the organisation, service or project.

The name SWOT is an acronym for the four parameters the tool examines: Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats


When can we use a SWOT analysis?

  • Before implementing change - at the start of a QI project to identify, analyse and evaluate the influences that work for or against the objectives of the organisation or project.
  • During the course of a QI project to assess whether environments have changed, make adjustments when needed and maintain project focus.
  • Strategic planning - when trying to work out where efforts are best placed to bring about the strongest benefits for the community and workforce.
  • When considering alternatives to service provision such as new models of care or outsourcing.

Why do we use a SWOT analysis?

A SWOT analysis helps teams/organisations to focus on their strengths, minimize threats, and take the greatest possible advantage of opportunities available to achieve strategic objectives.

Essentially, teams/organisations can work out what they are doing well, where they can improve, and where they sit in relation to other teams and organisations.

How do we use a SWOT analysis

  1. Decide on the objective of your SWOT analysis:
    Is there a potential change to a service, process or approach to consider? 
  2. Research: 
    Research the objective and current environment. Ask a range of people and refer to available data.
  3. Brainstorm:
    In a team brainstorm the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats relevant to the organisation’s strategy or QI project. 
  4. List the strengths, weaknesses, potential opportunities and threats:
    List them on separate pages or on a 4x4 grid.
  5. Establish priorities from the SWOT:
    Work out what issues are the most important and what can be dealt with later.
  6. Develop a strategy to address the issues identified:
  • How can we use our strengths to take advantage of our opportunities?
  • How can we use these strengths to overcome the threats identified?
  • What do we need to do to overcome our weaknesses so that we can take advantage of opportunities?
  • What can we do about our weaknesses to make the threats less likely?

Creating a SWOT analysis

Materials needed: whiteboard or flipchart, pens or post it notes.

The 7 simple rules for successful SWOT analysis

Be Specific: Avoid vague descriptions or fuzzy defitions.

Be Objective: Ask for input from well-informed and objective sources

Be Realistic: Be realistic about strengths and weaknesses, be practical in judging sections.

Apply Context: Distinguish between where the organisation or project actually is today, and where is could be in the future.

Contrast and Compare: Relate strengths and weaknesses to critical success factors.

Short and Simple: Avoid needless complexity and over-analysis. Keep it brief - never more than a page

Update plans and goals: Once the key issues are identified, define the action steps to achieve change