Using SWOT Analysis To Understand The Institutional Environments: A Guide For Can Tho University Luu Nguyen Quoc Hung Can Tho University, Vietnam Abstract Strategic planning has become the practical approach to organizational management in most of organizations in the new era, when the world has undergone major social, political, economic, technological and demographic changes. Like other organizations, in this hyper-competitive world, universities have to analyze their environments both internally and externally to identify their strengths and weaknesses as well as to optimize their opportunities and reduce the threats to their institutions. The purpose of this article is two fold. Firstly, the concept of SWOT analysis as a strategic tool to help universities to adapt to changes is discussed. Secondly, a SWOT framework to analyze Can Tho University is also presented. Of many management concepts, strategic planning has received much attention since the early 1960s (Delahaye, 2000). Business management literature has provided complex insights into the philosophies, processes and techniques of strategic planning. As Micklethwait and Wooldridge (1996 cited in Delahaye, 2000) commented: ‘For most of this century, strategic planning was regarded as the very kernel of management thought: indeed it often had a department devoted to it. Planning – a neat, definite, military concept – was adapted and required into what seemed to be an even more precise science’. There are a number of definitions of the term from different perspectives. Generally, strategic planning is considered as a complex and ongoing process of organizational change (Lerner, 1999). According to Olsen and Eadie (1982 cited in Hughes, 1994), ‘strategic planning is a disciplined effort to produce fundamental decisions shaping the nature and direction of governmental activities, within constitutional bounds.’ Bell (2002) stated ‘at its simplest strategic planning may be understood as an approach to establishing the long-term future of an organization and then moving that organization in an appropriate direction to achieve the future state to which its member, or at least its key members aspire.’ Quinn (1980 cited in Bell, 2002) emphasized the link between strategies, planning and the future development of the organization. He defined “strategic planning as the integration of an organization’s major goals, policies, and actions into a cohesive whole.’ In business environment, it goes without saying that strategic planning is the key to enhance organizational performance when it helps to match the activities of an organization to its environment and to its resource capabilities (Johnson and Scholes, 1989; Miller and Cardinal, 1994; Hahn and Powers, 1999). Business literature has revealed that well-developed strategic plans can result in a variety of benefits. A number of authors like Bryson (1988); Hughes (1994); Byrne (1996); Porter (1997); Stahl (1998);
Schraeder (2002) argued that strategic planning can help an organization to clarify future direction, to establish priorities, to diversify its products or services, and to deal with effectively with rapidly changing circumstances. In this era of globalization when the world has undergone many rapid changes of all fields (Navarro and Gallardo, 2003; Uvalic-Trumbic, 2003), the environment in which organizations operate is no longer stable and predictable, strategic planning then can provide an operation framework allowing organizations to lead changes and gain their competitive advantages, as Navarro and Gallardo (2003) claimed, ‘in the world today, organizations that are determined to survive and maintain a sustainable competitive advantage must adapt themselves rapidly to continuous change.’ Education, especially higher education, cannot stand apart from this global phenomenon. For the past decades, the educational sector has begun to recognize that planning is necessary to maintain its own responsiveness to a...
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