Strategic Planning – SWOT and Key Issues

Once you have developed the group’s Mission and Vision statements, it is time to identify the important issues that need to be addressed in the planning process. The first step in that effort is to conduct a SWOT Analysis.


“SWOT’ stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. As part of the strategic planning process, most groups conduct what is called a “SWOT Analysis,” trying to identify those internal and external situations, events or trend that positively or negatively impact the group.

Looking internally, a Strength is a capability, resource or capacity the organization can use to achieve its Vision.  A Weaknesses is a limitation, fault or defect in the organization that will keep it from reaching its Vision.

Considering what is going on in your environment, Opportunities are any favorable situation in the environment that supports demand for a service, or permits the organization to enhance its situation.  Threats are any challenge posed by an unfavorable trend or event that, in the absence of purposeful action, would lead to the stagnation, decline or demise of the group or one of its services.

When scanning for Opportunities and Threats, you are looking for three things:

  • A significant need, event or trend that could positively or negatively affect the group;
  • How that item will impact your organization; and
  • What response might be required.

Why conduct a SWOT Analysis? Most planning efforts use this information develop plans to:

  • Fix significant Weaknesses.
  • Pursue key Opportunities.
  • Avoid important Threats.
  • And leverage group Strengths.

Therefore, by analyzing the SWOT, the group can identify the Key Issues that need to be addressed in the next steps of the planning process.

How do you develop the SWOT? There are several sources for this information:

  1. Typically the group’s management and leadership are very knowledgeable about both internal and external issues that can affect the group.
  2. In preparing for the planning process it makes sense to interview or survey the group physicians for their viewpoints on group strengths and weaknesses, and regional opportunities and threats.
  3. Sometimes research needs to be conducted to identify demographic changes, moves by competitors, and specific opportunities that exist in the marketplace.

Key Issues

The Key Issues to be addressed in the planning process are different for every group. This is because the results of the SWOT Analysis are different for every group.

However, we find that groups typically need to address the following issues in their planning process:

  • Relationships:
    • Is it our goal to remain independent?
    • Who should we consider affiliating with (other groups, hospitals, etc.)?
  • Geographic Coverage:
    • What market area are we trying to serve?
    • Should we consider satellites or new service locations?
  • Providers:
    • How big should we become? How many physicians, physician extenders?
    • What specialties or sub-specialties should we have?
    • What are the individual professional plans of each physicians for the next 3-5 years?
    • What is our recruitment plan?
  • Opportunities:
    • What type of additional services should we be offering?
    • How should we best position ourselves for the future?
  • Threats:
    • What key threats exist in the region, and how should we avoid them?
  • Internal issues:
    • Governance.
    • Compensation system.
    • Call.
    • Practice Operations.

Once the Key Issues are identified, the group needs to discuss the issues, develop Objectives, and create Strategies and Action Plans to achieve those Objectives, subjects for our next article.


Please contact me if you’d like to discuss this post.

Will Latham



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