ABSTRACT: A SWOT Analysis is used to develop strategies that capitalize on an organization's strengths, minimize the effects of any weaknesses, exploit available opportunities and defend against threats. Implementing these strategies leads to achieving the organization's objectives. This article explains how to conduct a SWOT Analysis and provides a worked example in a school environment.
Scope of Discussion
In the following I discuss SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) Analysis only in relation to schools. However, SWOT analysis can be applied to any organization or part thereof (e.g. private company, public agency, voluntary sector organization, business unit, department, health organization, university, multinational organization, children’s Sunday league football team). Similarly, whilst I refer to analyzing the legislation, policies, protocols and arrangements that affect schools, SWOT analysis can effectively be applied to a range of issues relevant to your specific organization (e.g. investment in computer manufacture, marketing campaign for a clothes shop, quality of care in a nursing home).
What is a SWOT Analysis?
SWOT Analysis is an effective way of identifying the strengths and weaknesses of the impact of legislation, policy, protocols, parent-partnership arrangements, and so on, and of examining the opportunities and threats your organization/school may face as a result of implementing such policies, protocols, and arrangements. It was initially developed as a strategic planning tool by Robert Stewart, Alfred Humphrey and co-workers at the independent Stanford Research Institute in the 1960s. Nowadays, however, its use has extended beyond this original business usage and it is regularly employed as a planning tool by public services, schools, and similar.
- Strengths: Attributes of the school that are likely to have a positive effect on achieving the school’s objectives.
- Weaknesses: Attributes of the school that are likely to have a positive effect on achieving the school’s objectives.
- Opportunities: Conditions external to the school that are likely to have a positive effect on achieving the school’s objectives.
- Threats: Conditions external to the school that are likely to have a negative effect on achieving the school’s objectives.
In sum, the purpose of a SWOT analysis is to develop strategies that capitalize on the school’s strengths, minimize the effects of any weaknesses, exploit available opportunities and defend against threats. Implementing these strategies should lead to achieving the school’s objectives.
How to Use the Tool
To carry out a SWOT Analysis, write down answers to the following questions. Where appropriate, use similar questions and, whenever possible, consider your answers from your own point of view and from the point of view of the people you deal with.
- What advantages does this policy/protocol/arrangement/other present?
- What do we currently do well?
- What relevant resources do we access to?
- What do other people see as your strengths?
- What can we improve?
- What do we not do well? Consider what you are criticized for or what you receive complaints about.
- Where are we vulnerable?
Remember to consider this from an internal and external perspective. Do other people perceive weaknesses that you do not see? Are other schools doing any better than you in this area? It is best to be realistic now, and face any unpleasant truths as soon as possible.
- What opportunities do we know about but have not addressed?
- Are there emerging trends on which we can capitalize?
Useful opportunities can come from such things as:
- changes in technology and educational markets on both a broad and narrow scale
- changes in government policy related to your field
- changes in social patterns, population profiles, lifestyle changes, and so on
- local events
A useful approach to considering opportunities is to look at your strengths and ask yourself whether these open up any opportunities. Alternatively, examine your weaknesses and ask yourself whether you could open up opportunities by eliminating them.
- What obstacles do we face?
- Are economic conditions affecting our financial viability? Ask yourself, what would be the financial, social, educational impact of not implementing changes?
- Are the required specifications for our services changing?
- Is changing technology threatening our position?
- Could any of our weaknesses seriously threaten our business, children’s educational attainment, and so on? In other words, are weaknesses likely to make us critically vulnerable?
Carrying out this analysis will often be illuminating – both in terms of pointing out what needs to be done, and in putting what we might see as a problem into perspective. You can then use a simple matrix such as the one below to record your analysis.
We will use an example of a teacher working within a local primary school who is keen to review and improve relationships with parents.
The Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCO) for a local Primary School identified the following school objective:
To improve parent-partnership by encouraging parents to visit the school and become active members of the learning community, thereby fostering parental confidence.
Currently, the school’s practice is to hold an Open House event once each year, using this as a means to encourage parents to visit the school and engage with school staff. The SENCO formulated the following SWOT Analysis.
This article has been constructed largely from material from the following sources:
Idaho State University SWOT Analysis Resource Page [WWW] http://www.isu.edu/acadaff/swot/index.shtml Accessed 27.06.2009.
SmartDraw Key SWOT Questions [WWW] http://www.smartdraw.com/examples/preview/index.aspx?example=Key_SWOT_Questions Accessed 27.06.2009.
MindTools SWOT Analysis [WWW] http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newTMC_05.htm Accessed 27.06.2009.