How to Solve Problems Strategically: Using a SWOT Analysis

A SWAT team is deployed when law enforcement has a problem that the methods they use every day can’t address. A SWOT analysis is similar, and not just phonetically. Let’s answer some of your immediate questions:

What is SWOT?

The acronym SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. It is a type of business analysis tool that helps you identify both helpful and harmful elements from inside your organization and from the world external to it. You can use this type of strategic analysis to investigate how your organization compares to competitors or complete market research. The SWOT template shown in this article is one way to put the information in a way that it is easy to understand. The left column records elements that are helpful to your organization, while the right column records harmful elements. In addition, the top row captures elements that are part of your internal structure or culture, while the bottom row captures elements that are external to your organization.

When would SWOT be useful?

That’s easy. Right here, right now… unless of course you’re reading this after the world-wide COVID-19 quarantines have all been lifted. The lockdowns set in place by COVID-19 have caused hardships for some companies and opportunities for others. Companies that are struggling to fight off the current economic downturn may find it useful to conduct a SWOT analysis to re-examine how they conduct business. It would also help identify any changes they need to make to avoid major losses, while at the same time, identifying any under-explored opportunities. This scenario requires using SWOT both as a method of market research AND a way to develop business strategies. In Chapter 5 of the Handbook of Improving Performance in the Workplace, Doug Leigh says “whether as market research or business strategy development, SWOT analysis… suggest[s] the causes of…” the current situation, which helps guide “…decision making regarding alternative means of accomplishing desired results” (p. 118). Alternative approaches to conducting business are needed for a restaurant when no one is allowed to leave their homes, or a hotel when forced to shut down all operations, or a massive convention that draws companies and game connoisseurs worldwide when it is forced to cancel the event and refund all ticket holders and vendors. Let’s delve deeper into the predicament of the canceled convention. We’ve just stated the problem: they have been forced to cancel the event and refund participants, con-goers, and donors. The video game industry at large is also hit hard by this, as it is the opportunity for individuals to present ideas to large companies, indie developers can build interest in their game to thousands of people at one time without spending a massive amount of capital, and streamers can perform meet and greets with fans and set up collaborations and sponsorship deals. With something so focused on person-to-person contact, it would indeed require an alternate method of conducting business, since the lockdowns may not let up until late August, according to current predictions, meaning postponing the event may not be an option. Overall, it would be used as a method of evaluation because of the COVID-19 situation is currently unfolding. It would be useful in “monitoring the internal and external environments of…” the COVID-19 pandemic “…for change[s] over time, for tracking new SWOTs as they emerge, and for documenting previously existing SWOTs as they become less influential on…” the situation (Leigh 2009, p. 122). Benefits the convention may be able to get out of using this intervention:
  • Develop alternate means of providing the service
  • Maintain some donor funding
  • Regain the lost confidence of some investors
  • Discover an alternate means of hosting the conference, perhaps electronically
  • Avoid a crash in the video game industry
  • Maintain connections among fans and streamers
  • Be prepared in the event something similar happens in the future
  • Perhaps discover a cheaper way to conduct some of their business and spread it out online/throughout the year which could reduce operating costs and boost revenue
Obstacles to using this intervention are that this particular convention has a lot of people who might be considered stakeholders. It may be difficult to get everyone on board with the approach, particularly since getting in the same room with one another isn’t feasible at this time. People who participate may also focus on all the negatives, which will make people less productive and more inclined to give up on the process. Even if they do find a solution using this method, they may not have the capital to implement it if it takes too long to identify the appropriate stakeholders and get everyone focused on the task at hand. A Human Performance practitioner (kind of like a human efficiency expert) can help by facilitating the creation and development of the SWOT, recommending participants, and providing input on how they may address the items found in the SWOT in order to accomplish the organizational goals. In this situation, it would probably be useful to make use of evidence-based practice, either for determining what the SWOT items are or for determining how they might be addressed. Succession planning could also be very important considering it is a health issue, as well as an economic one, so the ability of individuals to fulfil established roles may be in question. It is better to be prepared for that eventuality than to have it arise and be caught off guard.

How Do I Complete a SWOT Analysis?

Here’s a quick step-by-step to get started with the template we’ve attached to this page. SWOT Analysis Template

What you’ll need:

  • A facilitator who will guide your team in filling out each section
Note: It is best to have someone who is not part of the department currently being affected by the problem you are trying to address
  • Stakeholders from every area being affected by the problem you are trying to address
  • A time/place where you will meet
Note: This can be online or in person


  1. Gather all the stakeholders in a place where they can begin sharing ideas.
  2. Decide what the goal of your SWOT analysis is. Are you conducting market research in preparation for a new product launch? Are you trying to do some business restructuring?
  3. Have people begin sharing ideas.
  4. Have the facilitator begin filling in sections as people share ideas.
Note: If there is a disagreement as to where something fits on the template, write it in the notes section and return to it a little later.
  1. Keep going, at least until each section has some content in it and everyone has had a chance to speak.
References Leigh, D. (2009) “Chapter 5: SWOT analysis.” Watkins, R., & Leigh, D. (Eds.). (2010). Handbook of improving performance in the workplace (1 ed. Vol. 2 – Selecting and implementing performance interventions) (pp. 115-137). San Francisco, CA: Pfeiffer.

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