In business school everyone learns a basic evaluation tool that can help assess yourself, your employees, your department, or even your entire company. The tool is the SWOT analysis. The acronym SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats.
Sadly, in 21 years I have been asked by a supervisor to do a SWOT analysis once. As individuals and businesses the only way to improve is to appraise what we are doing. The following two short SWOT analyses illustrate the benefits of this evaluation tool for both a business and an individual.
SWOT of a sales department:
Strength: Excellent name recognition because our product was one of the first of its kind to market.
Weakness: We do not have a diverse customer base as the majority of our sales come from one industry.
Opportunity: Other industries are beginning to use products like ours.
Threat: New competitors offer this type of product at a lower price point.
SWOT for an individual looking for a new job:
Strength: Past work history shows I tend to stay with one employer for 5 years or more and that I steadily receive promotions.
Weakness: I tend to be over analytical. I like to make decisions based purely on facts and I forget to include emotions into the decision.
Opportunity: My spouse has been relocated so I am using that as an opportunity to pursue a career that encompasses my passion for nature.
Threat: My work experience has mainly been in technical support and I don’t know how to translate this towards the new field I want to work in.
These are both simplified examples of SWOT analysis. Both though provide the assessor with a foundation for a plan of action. The business uses the analysis to decide what new industries it will begin to market their product to, and how they will leverage their experience as a benefit over their low cost competitors. The individual going after a new job already has some answers to common interview questions. What are your strengths? What are your weaknesses? Why are you pursuing a career in this field? She also becomes aware that her biggest worry is how to translate her experience into a new career field. She can start to talk to people in this new field before applying for jobs and ask how her skills can be utilized in this field.
A SWOT analysis is an easy tool that can be used at all levels of business. The individual level, the department level, and the company level. A “SWOT Team” helps define goals and enables you to allocate resources to attain those goals.