SWOOP (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Obstacles, Perspectives) Analysis
When assessing goals and/or objectives, it is helpful to follow a formal (somewhat) process that gives free voice to positive thinking, negative thinking, possibility thinking, contingency thinking, and the generation of new ideas, each in turn.
- Strengths (positive thinking) – a focused time to reflect on what is right with a concept, goal, or objective. Benefits, gains, merits, etc. are encouraged in this first phase of analysis. Once the group has exhausted the list of positives, then it moves on to:
- Weaknesses (negative thinking) – a time to explore what is wrong with a concept, goal, or objective. Costs, pitfalls, collateral effects, losses, etc. are examined in the second phase of analysis. Once the group has vented its concerns, it moves on to:
- Opportunities (possibility thinking) – the focus shifts to the positive implications of the idea, goal, or objective. New avenues of development and learning, ways to build upon the idea, ways to link with other programs and ideas, etc., are discussed in the third phase of the process. As the conversation closes on possibilities, the focus shifts to:
- Obstacles (contingency thinking) – this is more than just naming all the possible problems that might emerge to prevent successful integration of an idea, goal, or objective, but also encourages the group to think deeply about how to move beyond each potential obstacle. As each potential obstacle is identified, a “how” question is generated. (E.g. If lack of money is identified as an obstacle; the question is “how can we accomplish this goal with inadequate funding?”) This prevents the process from bogging down in frustration, and generates a list of problems to be solved along the way. When this phase is exhausted, a time is given for:
- Perspectives (the generation of new ideas and alternatives) – the focus here is to allow group members to share new ideas and concepts sparked by the conversation and analysis along the way. Often, the goal or objective being explored becomes the seed for a better idea. This time allows everyone a chance to share what he or she is thinking and feeling. Historically, plastic, nylon, ball point pens, Scotch tape, Post-It Notes, the computer mouse, and DVD’s were all ideas that came about late in a planning process for something else --many times, something unrelated.