SWOT Analysis is a technique used frequently in project management to assist with decision-making. It is useful for project planning and risk management of complex projects and, as a consequence, it can also help to improve teamwork within a project team.
The acronym SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. These terms indicate that this type of analysis can be used to maximise the benefit of a project by highlighting opportunities for competitive advantage as well as to help with risk identification and the decision making processes within many areas of a project.
But projects, by their very nature, involve people; people who have instigated the project, people who will use and benefit from the end results and, more importantly, people who will manage and carry out the work to deliver the project. And the success of any project depends on these people, which is why good teamwork is essential for successful project delivery. So let’s consider the benefits of SWOT analysis for good teamwork.
It is never sufficient to have an accurate and detailed plan, well-controlled risk management and good communications even though many projects could be pulled back from the brink of disaster by these fundamental requirements. So that projects will be delivered successfully, it is also necessary that the project team are motivated and work effectively together. By identifying the strengths of the team and the opportunities presented by a project, a SWOT analysis can provide the encouragement needed to motivate the team. By also highlighting the weaknesses in the team and any threats to completing a project successfully, this type of analysis provides a forum for discussing ways to minimise the weaknesses and mitigate the threats. Openly discussing such issues can be a motivational factor that improves teamwork because the team pro-actively tackles potential problems rather than simply reacting when a problem arises.
A project team can comprise members from a single department, from a range of departments within an organisation or even individuals from different organisations across the globe collaborating on one project. However the team is built it has just a few simple, but critical, aims: to understand what tasks must be completed and to complete them to a defined schedule, within budget and at an expected level of quality. They must also effectively communicate progress, problems and changes to the requirements.
By supporting and encouraging individual team members, in order to develop a fully-motivated team, the project manager can ensure that these aims are achieved. To this end, the project manager would typically perform a SWOT analysis at the outset of a project but it can also be used during later stages of the project if there are problems with costs or the schedule and the project needs to be brought under control.
Conducting a SWOT Analysis
A clear objective should be stated in advance of any SWOT analysis meeting and the project manager must take responsibility for communicating this aim to the team. Where the purpose of the analysis is to improve teamwork then every member of the project team should be present in person. This requirement can invariably cause problems with geographically diverse teams but is an essential factor in genuinely improving teamwork.
For analysis sessions that are being run at the beginning of the project, the aim is to motivate the team by putting in place a detailed plan that lists all necessary tasks and highlights possible risks; a plan that takes into account the ideas and concerns of the team members. Where the analysis is being done part-way through a project that has run into difficulties then the purpose may be to re-build the confidence and enthusiasm of the team by enabling a brainstorming of ideas for bringing the project back on track.
Since the purpose of each SWOT Analysis varies, the questions that need to be used to gather all the necessary information, thoughts and ideas can be very different from project to project. It is, therefore, difficult to pre-define an appropriate list of questions that would be suitable for every situation. However, every session does require some questions to be documented and distributed in advance to assist the team in remaining focussed and to allow them the opportunity to gather appropriate information before the meeting.
So listed below are sample questions covering each of the four sections of a SWOT Analysis designed to improve teamwork. Many of these questions are equally valid under more than one heading and during the session it is likely that questions will be added to each section as ideas are formulated and opinions voiced.
- Are the required skills and experience available in-house?
- Has the project been allocated a reasonable budget?
- What benefits will the completed project bring to the organization?
- Has the project manager or team worked on similar projects?
- Has the team been consulted on the time estimates and deadlines?
- Will contingency funding be available if required?
- Are there any downsides to the project?
- Will external suppliers be used for some sections of the project?
- Are there possibilities for rolling out the project internationally?
- What are the weaknesses of the main competitors?
- Are there any new industry trends that might be relevant?
- Could any impending technology be utilised?
- Are end-users enthusiastic about the new project?
- Is the turnover of experienced staff high?
- Are new technology elements fully tested?
- Is the project likely to be affected by economic uncertainties?
So the value of SWOT analysis for good teamwork lies in its ability to focus both on what tasks can and will be performed well and those where there are potential problems or risks. It encourages free and open discussions about both the positive and negative aspects of a project and promotes the flow of ideas necessary to motivate a team and result in a successful project. The key to a successful SWOT analysis is to be realistic and to be honest.
And remember that analysis provides information but that information must be acted upon, otherwise it is useless. Build on your strengths, minimise your weaknesses, implement the opportunities presented and monitor your threats. And you will find yourself with a strong group of individuals who will realise the benefits of good teamwork by delivering successful projects.