Gov Comp: Strategic Plan: SWOT Analysis Tool

SWOT Analysis Tool
Developing a strategic plan without examining environmental factors is similar to planning a trip to an unfamiliar destination without researching transportations options or weather conditions.  When engaging in strategic planning, it is important to remember the process is the product in many ways. While the end goal is to walk away with a document, the most important outcomes are the decisions made with shared understanding and commitment of the internal stakeholders.
One key thing to keep in mind is that soliciting information from stakeholders does not mean the strategic planning process is beholden to what is suggested. The committee is in place to analyze all inputs to make the best decision for the organization moving forward. Some key things to keep in mind are:
  1. The input of the members is invaluable both in terms of raw data as well as building support for the process and engagement in the results
  2. This step is not about achieving consensus, but instead about structuring participation. The planning committee should engage in meaningful way with stakeholders so they feel they have truly contributed to the strategic plan
  3. While engaging with stakeholders, it is essential to clarify that while their input is valued, the solicitation of is not a commitment to a specific course of action. This fact must be communicated early and clearly
The most important part of analyzing is finalizing the plan for engaging stakeholders. Remember that the Strategic Planning Committee represents one group of stakeholders, and is usually willing to give more robust input that many of the other subgroups, so fully utilize your insights. Also keep in mind that the plan you end up with is only as good as the data used to compile it, so make sure the information collected is accurate and useful. Some tools to consider using with stakeholders are:

SWOT Analysis
Conducting an assessment of factors is typically referred to as a “SWOT” analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats). The SWOT analysis provides a structure for analyzing the internal strengths and weakness of the organization, along with the organization’s external opportunities and threats. The identification and analysis of these four elements is useful in illustrating an organization’s environmental conditions. A SWOT analysis provides a panoramic view of the organization and factors that affect its future.
A SWOT grid is a useful tool when decisions are to be made about changes in organization strategy or direction. A SWOT analysis can also aid discussion when developing new programs or evaluating if the current strategies of the organization are meeting the members’ needs. 


Internal Strengths
Resources or capabilities that help the organization accomplish its mission. Strengths may be competitive advantages or specific skills/expertise.
  • Available resources.
  • Leadership.
  • Financial resources.
  • Volunteer expertise.
  • Feedback from member surveys/focus groups.
Internal Weakness
Deficiencies in resources and capabilities that hinder the organization’s ability to accomplish its mission.
  • Lack of effective communication.
  • Lack of mission or direction.
  • Financial or human resources constraints.
  • Feedback from member surveys/focus groups.
External Opportunities 
Outside factors or situations that can affect the organization in a favorable way. 
  • The demand for nutrition services.
  • Future industry trends or dietetic needs.
  • Expanding and contracting customer segments.

External Threats 
Outside factors or situations that can affect the organization in a negative way.
  • Competing organizations.
  • Value members receive from other organizations.
  • Decreasing customer base.
  • Changing government healthcare regulations.
  • Billing rates.
Once the grid is complete compare the strengths and weakness to the opportunities and threats to identify the strongest connections.
  Opportunities Threats
Strengths INVEST: Clear matches of strengths and opportunities lead to competitive advantage DEFEND: Areas of threat matched by areas of strength indicate a need to mobilize resources either alone or with others
Weaknesses   DECIDE: Areas of opportunity matched by areas of weakness require a judgement call: invest or divest; collaborate DAMAGE CONTROL/DIVEST: Areas of threat matched by areas of weakness indicate need for damage control

SCOPE Analysis
Conducting a SCOPE analysis is another option to use in place of a SWOT analysis. Derivative of the SWOT analysis, SCOPE allows extra freedom to include additional information pertinent to the strategic planning process and allows for a way to structure analysis and thinking which fits in to the natural progression of the strategic planning process. The items for analysis are:
  • Situation – rear-view pertaining conditions which have a relevant and material impact on the planning decision with regards to internal or external environmental factors
  • Core Competencies – unique strengths and abilities of the affiliate which provide the fundamental basis for the provision of adding value to members and are critical to the delivery of competitive advantage
  • Obstacles – potential issues and threats that could jeopardize the realization of future Prospects
  • Prospects – possibilities, chances, and opportunities existing both internally or externally to the affiliate which have an apparent probability of enhanced benefits as determined by the affiliate which are created through the leveraging of its Core Competencies
  • Expectations – future-view anticipated developments in internal and external conditions that could materially influence or impact the delivery of plans to meet the identified Prospects.
  Core Competencies
Specific factors the affiliate sees as being central to the way it operates. Fulfills 3 key criteria: 1. Are not easy for competitors to imitate, 2. Can be leveraged in many different areas, and 3. Add value to the member's experienced benefits. They provide the fundamental basis for achieving a competitive advantage.
Provides an outline of understanding of the prevailing conditions upon with the strategic plan is to be developed. It should consider both the internal and external factors which have led the affiliate to its current status, and which have a bearing on identifying future opportunities, trends, and plans.
Chances for the affiliate to create additional revenue by taking advantage of its Core Competencies in the context of its Situation. Identification of Prospects provides the foundation for both goal setting and strategic development going forward.
Reflect anticipated developments, i.e. what does the affiliate see happening in the future which could have either a direct or indirect influence on the execution of the strategic plan and achievement of the defined Prospects. These can be both quantifiable and subjective, and give the committee insights into the future not otherwise captured.
May be internal or external, and reflect specific issues which need to be addressed if the affiliate is to realize future Prospects. In this respect, they shouldn’t necessarily be defined as either a "weakness" or "threat", but rather be perceived as hurdles to the plan to be overcome. "Weakness" implies longer-term systemic issues while Obstacles are shorter-term situations that need to be resolved.

Methods for Gathering Information

SWOT analysis information can be gathered either by an outside facilitator/consultant or internally through the strategic planning committee. The individual members interviewed are usually those that will be participating in the strategy session. 

1. Seek individual member perspective prior to planning meeting
  • Interview via phone or electronically each of the members who will be participating in the meeting.
  • Document their perspectives on the organization’s current strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.
  • Develop a list of the responses on a flipchart prior to the meeting. (Typically listing the responses that were mentioned by more than one person is shown. However, the method of documentation is ultimately the responsibility of the facilitator)
  • Using the strength/weakness/opportunity/threats format, present the information and open for group discussion, allowing difference of opinions to be expressed
2. Seek individual members perspective during the planning meeting
  • At the meeting ask participants to individually document their opinion of the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats that face the organization
  • After each participant has completed their list, ask them to share their opinions in each of the areas
  • List all participants’ responses on a flipchart by category and discuss the SWOT analysis as a group, refining the analysis during the group discussion Option:
3. Obtain group’s perspective during the planning meeting
  • Provide an overview of what a SWOT analysis is and the type of information to be considered under each of the categories (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats)
  • Initiate group discussion, asking each participant to voice their opinions about the organization’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats
  • Document the responses on the flipchart and make sure that all participants have the opportunity to respond and that differences of opinion are discussed. Refine the analysis during the discussion
The least time consuming options are in the order of three, two, one.  However, time saving options may not always allow for broad perspectives. The facilitator is key in gathering a variance of opinions when using Options Two or Three.
The following items are examples of documents that will help the strategic planning committee analyze the current environment of the organization:

Program Related Documents
  • Mission, Vision, Values Statements
  • Current Strategic Plan
  • Annual Report
  • Program Descriptions
  • Needs Assessments
  • Member Satisfaction Surveys
  • Evaluations and results
 Organizational Capacity Documents
  • Organizational Chart
  • Newsletters/Eblasts/Other Communication
  • Policies and Procedures
  • Bylaws
  • Volunteer Management Plan
  • Previous Strategic Plans
Financial Related Documents
  • Fundraising Plans and Results
  • Budgets
  • Audits
  • Financial Reports
 Leadership Documents
  • Board Background
  • Succession Planning and Leadership Development
  • Board Minutes
  • Board Self-Evaluations
  • Board Orientation/Training Manual

Questions to aid in discussion:
  1. In order to achieve our missions, what is your vision for our affiliate within the next 5-10 years?
  • Programmatic Vision (What specific things would you like to say we accomplished in terms of programs/mission?)
  • Business Model Vision (How should we be funding your programmatic vision?)
  • Organizational Capacity Vision (What is your vision for what we would need to be doing in the future in terms of organizational capacity - i.e. planning, culture, communication, governance?)
  • Leadership Vision (What is your vision in terms of the affiliate's leadership - i.e. roles and makeup of the board, expectations of leadership, staff, leadership development?)
  1. Given your vision for the future, what from a programmatic perspective to we specifically need to do more of, less of, differently, or start doing?
  2. Given your vision for the future, what from a resource development, organizational capacity, and/or board leadership and governance perspective do we need to do more of, less of, differently, or start doing?
  3. What three things do you want to make sure NOT to change as we move forward?
  4. What should be the primary measure of our affiliate’s success?
  5. What are the major external opportunities facing our affiliate in the next 3-5 years, and how might we respond as an organization?
  6. What are the major external challenges/threats/hurdles facing our affiliate in the next 3-5 years, and how might we respond as an organization?
  7. What are the major strengths of our affiliate, and how can we take advantage of those strengths?
  8. What are our major weaknesses/hurdles, and how can we overcome them?

Frequency of Review

A thorough review may be necessary only every three to five years, but current market trends and program evaluations need to be reviewed annually to verify the relevancy of the annual plan.


  • Identify which tools the affiliate will utilize and finalize what the goals are in collecting the data.
  • Create necessary surveys, questionnaires, etc. for use in data collection.
  • Finalize timeline for approaching stakeholders (each method of contact may have different due date).
  • Identify who will be responsible for collecting each data point.
  • Compile data into a useable format.