How Can SWOT Be Applied to an Organizational Culture?

Portrait of businesspeople
••• Jupiterimages/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images

A SWOT analysis, which evaluates strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, gives an organization a snapshot of its current position among competitors. Organizational culture refers to the language, values, perceptions, norms, interpersonal expectations and concepts shared within an organization. Often unspoken rules and expectations determine if organizational members excel or fail. The SWOT analysis can identify areas within the organizational culture that benefit or harm the organization. How an organization performs is directly tied to its organizational culture; therefore, a SWOT analysis is beneficial to see the areas that are working for and against the organization's best interests.

Get the right people in the room. Gather key leaders in your organization who will be candid as you go through the SWOT analysis.

Set the stage. Review your organization's mission or vision statements. Explain to leaders involved in completing the SWOT analysis that current organizational culture may or may not reflect the mission or vision statements. The goal is to create a transparent environment to discuss the current organizational culture.


Evaluate the strengths of your organizational culture. A simple way to initiate this dialogue is to ask a question like "What about our organizational culture provides a competitive advantage over our competitors?" The goal here is to determine how your current organizational culture contributes to your organizational success.

Identify weaknesses in your organizational culture. Pinpoint any shared expectations, norms or perceptions that move the organization backwards instead of forwards. Weaknesses can also be shared perceptions or beliefs about how organizational members excel or fail within your organization that limit innovation, creativity or quality. It is beneficial to identify what parts of your organizational culture do not support the mission or vision statements.

Identify opportunities brought about by your organizational culture. Determine whether the goal of your organization is to dominate a particular niche market, expand products and services, or achieve a mixture of the two. The opportunities brought forth by your organizational culture will most likely depend upon the overarching goal of whether to defend an existing market or discover new markets.

Identify threats caused by your organizational culture. The goal here is to determine which internal or external threats would cause the current strengths of your organizational culture to weaken or your opportunities to be at stake.

Hands of businesspeople in huddle

Establish systems to support your organization's cultural values. Existing systems support the current organizational culture. If the SWOT analysis reveals areas of your organizational culture that need to change, it is essential to set up systems to support the improvement.


  • Be selective about the person leading the SWOT analysis. A third-party consultant might bring an objective point of view that will aid in moving the process along.

Related Articles