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Analyzing a Situation: SWOT Analysis

SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. SWOT analysis is a tool for analyzing the current situation both internally (strengths and weaknesses) and externally (opportunities and threats). It provides helpful baseline information for a group that wants to vision the future or analyze a problem.

For example, the math team in your school might do a SWOT analysis to look for ways it can grow and become more competitive. To accomplish this, start by drawing a large square on a white board or paper. Divide the square into quadrants. Label the upper left quadrant "Strengths," the lower left "Weaknesses," the upper right "Opportunities," and the lower right "Threats."

Remind the group that strengths and weaknesses are what the team has internal to itself and opportunities and threats are external factors.

Key Points To Take Away

--- Use SWOT analysis to determine where a group or organization stands and what it might need to work on in order to get where it wants to go.
--- Create a safe and open environment so people can respond candidly.
--- Make time to reflect on and decide what to do with the results.


When it comes time to list strengths, ask group members to look at activities it does very well, at skills and experience within the group, at leadership Strengths might include a long history of regional wins, a balance of boys and girls, and so on.

For weaknesses, ask the reverse of the questions above. You might hear that weaknesses include a lack of interest from students in younger grades, irregular attendance at practices, and so on.

Next, ask group members to identify opportunities -- external factors that could be used to benefit the group. Perhaps a local high tech company is willing to sponsor the team at regional meets. Maybe the principal will count math team towards receiving a school letter. What other opportunities are there to grow math team involvement?

Finally, identify threats -- things that might be tripping up the group or getting in the way of success. These threats might be competing extra-curricular activities, the negative social pressure that comes with being on the math team, budget cuts that will eliminate bus transportation, and so on.

After filling in the quadrants, talk about what stands out from this analysis. Is it clear where the math team needs to focus its attention? What is surprising? What are the next steps?

NEXT WEEK IN GREAT MEETINGS: When the group is bogged down by negatives, use the Wish, Want, Wonder technique to get them to create an ideal vision.


About Great Meetings

Pam Plumb and Dee Kelsey are your facilitators in charge of Education World's Great Meetings series. They are also authors of the popular guide to meeting facilitation, Great Meetings! Great Results. Together, Pam and Dee have more than 40 years' experience facilitating change and training meeting leaders.

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