SWOT Analysis: Where Do We Stand Overall?

This post is part of a series that goes into greater detail on the annual planning process.

Now that you've analyzed your internal and external environments, it's time to put them together to get a complete idea of what's going on around you and what you can do about it.

SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats, and the SWOT Analysis is a synthesis of the internal and external analyses. If you've done an external analysis and an internal analysis, you've already got a list of your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (If not, I highly recommend going back to read them; it makes your SWOT a lot more effective). So all you have to do now is put them in a grid:

Good StuffScary Stuff

The advantage of lining them up like this is that it makes it easier to find the synergies (sorry to lapse into manager-speak, but it actually applies in this case), both bad and good.

Take the Good Stuff column. What you're looking for here is a place where your strengths match up well with your opportunities, like a new job that pays better and is looking for your particular talents, or a need for marketing consulting in your area that matches well with your marketing expertise, or a bunch of start-ups in the area that could really use the venture capital you have in your savings account. Any pair that works well like that is one of your Super-duper-mega-opportunities (S-D-M-opportunities): a place where not only do you have a chance to make money, but you can probably do better than your competitors because of the strengths you have available.

Not quite so exciting, but just as important, is the Scary Stuff. Again you're looking for places that match up: weaknesses that exacerbate your threats, or threats that will hit you harder than others because of your weaknesses. These are your super-duper-mega-threats (S-D-M-threats): the ones that have the potential to take you down even if you do everything right with your opportunities. The ones that you will need to find some way to address, by shoring up your weaknesses, hiring someone who doesn't have that weakness, making a deal with someone to eliminate the threat, or whatever. It's not as much fun as thinking about your S-D-M-opportunities, but it'd be a bummer to finish an amazing project and be poised to rake in the dough, only to be blindsided by a threat you never saw coming and can't handle.


Write down your Super-Duper-Mega-threats, and what options you have available to deal with them. You don't need to decide how to handle them, but you'll want to brainstorm available options.

Write down your Super-Duper-Mega-opportunities. You don't have to decide which one(s) to pursue, but you'll want them on hand for the step after next.

Next Week Organized Dreaming: Setting Lifestyle Goals