Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Have a Problem? "SWOT" it Away!

The other day I was reading an interesting article that Lynnae posted on her blog, Freelance Homeschool Mom, in which she discussed how she developed a plan to meet her children's unique educational and emotional needs. I admired how she objectively evaluated each child's strengths, weaknesses, and identified threats in order to come up with a plan that would work for her and her children.

I left a comment that complimented her methods for developing the plan, and mentioned how similar her evaluation was to a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis. She responded that she didn't know what a SWOT analysis was, and her response made me realize that many of us "SWOT" our problems away without even realizing it.

What is a SWOT Analysis?

A SWOT analysis is a simple planning/problem resolution method that is used to identify: 
  • Strengths  
  • Weaknesses 
  • Opportunities 
  • Threats 

Essentially the SWOT analysis is used to determine what you have, what you don't have, what you need to achieve your goal, and obstacles you may need to overcome in order to achieve your goal.
Modified from "Behold, for I have become death, swatter of flies"
by Paul Downey CC By 2.0

What is a Strength, Weakness, Opportunity, or Threat?

Strengths are advantages you have that can help you to achieve your goals or resolve your problems. These can include:
  • Strong support network
  • Unique skills, knowledge, or abilities
  • Positive personality traits 

Weaknesses are things that you can improve upon. A few examples of weaknesses are:
  • Negative personality traits
  • Lack of knowledge about a certain subject or topic
  • Poor support network
  • Lack of morals or ethics

Opportunities are tools that you can use to help overcome weaknesses.  Some examples of opportunities are:
  • Technology that can be used to learn about a topic or subject
  • Social networks
  • Skills or abilities that you have but are not using

Threats are outside forces that could prevent you from achieving your goals or solving your problems. A few threats might be:
  • Other people
  • Loss of income
  • Illness
  • Losing access to technology or support network

How Does it Work?

Start by creating a 2x2 grid; you can draw one by hand, use a word processing program to create a table, or use the "Sticky Notes" application on your computer (my personal favorite). Label the top left box "Strengths," the top right box "Weaknesses", the bottom left box, "Opportunities," and the bottom right box, "Threats." Then, using the examples above, create a list for each category.

Here's one that I completed(using Sticky Notes)to help me analyze how I can continue to succeed in college:

Screenshot of Microsoft Sticky Notes application, Charity Rowell (2013).

Some Tips For a Successful SWOT

Be brutally honest with yourself. You are not gloating by identifying your strengths, and you are not indulging in self-loathing by identifying your weaknesses.

Do not self-edit; this is a brainstorming exercise. You can reflect on the ethical or moral consequences of the opportunities that you identified at a later time.

You do not need to complete the SWOT analysis in one sitting. You can start with a few thoughts and add to your lists as thoughts come to you.

Did "SWOT-ing" Your Problems Work?

If so, then drop by and leave a comment about your success. If not, is there something I can do to help? Do you need more information, or need to tell me about something I missed? Let me know!


  1. Thank you so much for this post! I didn't know what SWOT was before, but I can see now it's a great way to approach a problem. This is something I'm going to teach my kids, too.

    1. Lynnae, thanks for the compliment! Please let me know if it works for you and your beautiful children.

  2. Charity, that was very informative. I was like Lynnae I had no idea I have been doing this all along.

    Your description of the method makes a lot of sense. I especially like the "S" identify strengths.

    I am a confident person so I always go here first because that is an area that kicks off the whole project for me.

    1. Michael, thanks for reading, and I'm glad you got something out of the post.

      Just so you, and all of my readers know, the examples shown in the SWOT analysis above are not made up; they are actual examples from a SWOT analysis I performed on myself. Having said this, my "Weaknesses" list is generally longer than my "Strengths" list (probably because I'm intensely self-critical, go figure).

      I would advise that folks try to list strengths and weaknesses before opportunities and threats, since strengths and weaknesses can be used to build opportunities and mitigate threats.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.