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Certain project planning tools should be part of every competitive grant proposal writer’s repertoire. Among such tools are: SWOT analysis, PESTLE analysis, RASCI charts, Gantt charts, Red Team reviews, meta-analysis, and logic models. This post discusses SWOT analysis.

 

Definition of SWOT Analysis

 

SWOT stands for Strength (S), Weakness (W), Opportunity (O), and Threat. SWOT analysis looks at identified factors in the present context or milieu of a project and interprets them either as S, W, O, or T.

 

S and W are of internal origin. Strengths are internal factors favorable to attaining an organization’s objective. Among possible strengths are: organizational culture, expertise, unique qualities, and resources. Weaknesses are internal factors unfavorable to attaining an organization’s objective. Among possible weaknesses also are: organizational culture, expertise, unique qualities, and resources.

 

By contrast, O and T are of external origin. Opportunities are external factors favorable to attaining an organization’s objective. Among possible opportunities are: an organization’s market sector/segment, third parties, and all of the PESTLE factors. Threats are external factors unfavorable to attaining an organization’s objective. Among possible threats are: the organization’s market sector/segment, third parties, and all of the PESTLE factors.

 

In general, S and O are helpful. Similarly, in general, W and T are harmful. Organizations control S and W to a degree. By contrast, they exert no control over O and T. What participants in a SWOT analysis may regard as an S in one context they may also regard as a W in another context – e.g., staff retention incentives – and what participants may regard as an O in one context they may also regard as a T in another context – e.g., community activism.

 

Steps in Doing a SWOT Analysis

 

SWOT analysis is a tool for strategic definition, for reaching a consensus about the internal and external contexts of a project. It is an iterative process, not a one-time analysis. It also entails subjective decisions throughout its process.

 

The SWOT process starts from an already defined objective. Next it defines the factors involved. Next it yields an analysis. The analysis may reset the objective requiring reframing of the objective and triggering the iteration of another cycle of analysis. The defined objective and the SWOT analysis act on each other. They are interdependent, and thus dynamic, not static.

 

It is often useful for participants to start with analysis of S and W then move on to analysis of O and T. Results of SWOT can be plotted on a performance matrix. Those W factors that are keys to organizational success, but also show a low performance level are the factors that subsequent strategy should target. The O and T factors can be rated on a scale ranking their probability and their impact on the organization.

 

Among the uses of SWOT analysis in writing grant proposals are:

  1. Needs Assessment – summarizing of findings of the analysis as a baseline of needs
  2. Program Design – formulating one or more project objectives
  3. Program Design – selecting strategies and focuses of effort in an action plan
  4. Evaluation – using focus groups to monitor/review status of factors in the SWOT analysis
  5. Evaluation – performing a content analysis of the SWOT findings

 

Precautions in Doing a SWOT Analysis

 

Among some of the precautions to take in doing a SWOT analysis are:

  1. Using consistent methods and asking consistent questions
  2. Providing consistent facilitation
  3. Ensuring inclusive participant types
  4. Providing a neutral ground venue or multiple venue types
  5. Ensuring the accurate capture of insights
  6. Obtaining consistent participation of stakeholders
  7. Building a consensus about findings for the elements of SWOT
  8. Ensuring appropriate skill in facilitation and in building consensus
  9. Reducing risks of oversimplification and dominance of vested interests (e.g., denial of W out of deference to power)
  10. Planning actions that impact S and W
  11. Ensuring that it is repeated over time

 

Subsequent posts will discuss other project development tools such as Gantt charts, RASCI charts, PESTLE analysis, Red Team reviews, meta-analysis, and logic models.

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