SWOT…… What is it? How does it work?
Let’s start with a look at what the letters stand for:
S – Strengths
W – Weaknesses
O – Opportunities
T – Threats
Ok so now that we’ve identified what each letter means, what is SWOT used for?
SWOT is most useful in problem solving. It can be used in a variety of circumstances: Program Development, Ironing out problems within a department (or between agencies). It’s a great tool for getting an entire station involved in a discussion.
I should add that SWOT is not specific to the Fire Service but is an analytical tool used in many aspects including businesses & military. The History of SWOT
A brief (overview) of how SWOT might be used….. In this example we look at the Fire Service in General
(quick disclaimer: these ideas are not my own but a collection of ideas from a panel of firefighters)
So lets start out by looking at some of the Strengths:
- Rise to Challenge
- Willingness to Help Others
- Different Skill Sets
But What about the Weaknesses:
- Different Levels of Training Standards
- Stuck in the Old Way of doing things (unwillingness to change)
- Inability to Communicate effectively both inter and intra departmentally
- Varying levels of Education (in relation to the Fire Service)
And what are some of the Threats that affect the Fire Service:
- Budget Cuts
- Unwillingness to Change/Adapt to new ways of doing things
You will notice that I’m not going into Opportunities yet (we’ll get back to that).
Let’s look at the Strengths and Weaknesses….. You’ll notice that one of the weaknesses is the varying levels of education and standards of training, but that can also be seen as a strength as it brings in different skill sets (as shown in strengths.
And What about Opportunity???? How do you turn those threats into opportunities? Budget Cuts, for example, can be made into an opportunity to increase public relations and get people on “your side” when it comes to talking about those dreaded budget cuts and the effect on the Fire Department. Complacency can be made into an opportunity for learning and training. The Resistance to change can be made into an opportunity to educate….
The key point to the usage of SWOT is that everything is put out there (no ideas is poo poo’d or put down). Each idea is put where it seems to best fit. Once that is done you can look at what you got and start seeing where Strengths can override weaknesses (and where improvements in weak areas can be made) and where Threats & Weaknesses can be made into Opportunities.