This web page was written by Carol Ormand.
A SWOT analysis is a tool that originated in the business world (Learned et al., 1969) but is useful for any kind of strategic planning. It's a relatively quick way to look at your Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. Although it is not a substitute for an in-depth analysis, it can set the stage for one.
Purpose of a SWOT analysis
The overall purpose of a SWOT analysis is to examine the internal and external factors that help or hinder your department in achieving each of your objectives. It can be used as a brainstorming tool, simply to see how you (and perhaps some people outside of your department) see your department. It can also be used very effectively in the early stages of a program assessment, to help focus your attention on key areas.
Conducting a SWOT analysis
Keys to a successful SWOT analysis are to use it in the context of a particular objective and to get input from a wide variety of perspectives. One way to manage that is to do it as a Gallery Walk. However you go about it, you want to establish an environment in which everyone involved feels free to offer their point of view.
Some example questions to ask:
- What are we good at?
- What resources do we have (personnel, space, equipment, other)?
- Who are our allies/partners, in the institution or elsewhere?
- Are we competitive with our peers (other STEM departments on campus, or other geoscience departments at peer institutions)?
- What are we not doing well, that we should be?
- What resources do we need, but lack?
- What annoys, frustrates, or disappoints our students, colleagues, or other constituents (alumni, potential employers of our students, prospective students, etc.)?
- What are our peers (other STEM departments on campus, or other geoscience departments at peer institutions) doing better than we are?
- What changes can we expect in the coming years, on campus or in a broader context? Can we contribute in a positive way?
- What are other departments doing that we aren't?
- What changes can we expect in the coming years, on campus or in a broader context, that will negatively impact us?
Making the most of your SWOT results
You may simply use your SWOT analysis as a means of gathering information and hearing from a range of perspectives. However, you may be able to use your results to strategic advantage by either "matching" or "converting." Matching refers to matching your strengths to opportunities. For example, some departments have grown significantly by identifying employment needs, revising their curricula to meet those needs, and advertising this match to prospective students. Converting refers to actively working to convert threats or weaknesses into strengths or opportunities.
Learned, Edmund P., Christiansen, C. Roland, Andrews, Kenneth, and Guth, William D. Business Policy: Text and Cases. 1969.