Combining: Identifying Common Ground

The discussion process Combining provides a way for the Team to identify it’s ‘common ground’. A multi agency Team’s common ground represents the types of concerns shared by all Team members’ agencies and those that the Team can most likely impact and change successfully.

There are now 2 SWOT charts – one with Internal Factors (Strengths and Weaknesses) and one with External Factors (Opportunities and Threats) with up to 15 items on each list. The Team populated the items on the charts using Brainstorming, that allowed no discussion or evaluation of the ideas. Now it’s time to talk about the individual ideas on the chart and clarify, explain, edit, eliminate and possibly add new items. The outcome of the Combining discussion is to distill each factor list from 15 items down to a list of about 4 items in each of the 4 SWOT factor areas. About 4 items in each of the SWOT factor areas will provide the Team with a workable set of ideas to move forward with crafting initial goals for the plan. The graphic ‘Combining’ provides directions and guidelines for this discussion.

Keep the original charts. The Team’s SWOT lists are an ever evolving and changing set of ideas to draw on as the Team continues in the strategic planning process over time. As the Team gets more deeply into the work, new goals will emerge. The process of developing new goals always begins with the 5 Whys. SWOT ideas can lead to new problems for which the Team needs to discover root cause.

The SWOT Worksheet provides a place to add different ‘combined’ SWOT Factors for each category for consideration by the Team in developing different/additional goals. Updating the SWOT worksheet with different Combined Factors offers new opportunities to then Match and Convert items for powerful new ideas.

Engage the Team in additional Combining discussions, as different root causes and new goals are considered for the plan. As with 5 Whys and SWOT, the flow for a Combining discussion becomes routine with a little practice.


This shows an example of a SWOT Analysis Worksheet, with the ‘top 4’ of a Team’s collective Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. They arrived at the ‘top 4’ by using Combining to review and discuss each original list of 15 items to whittle them down to a more manageable number of ideas. The other areas on the SWOT Analysis Worksheet are completed in the next part of the SWOT Analysis. Keep the original SWOT lists for future reference.

Download the Combining SWOT Analysis Worksheet PDF

Download the Directions for a SWOT Combining Discussion PDF