SWOT Analysis is a strategic planning tool used to evaluate the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats involved in a project or in a business venture. It involves specifying the objective of the business venture or project and identifying the internal and external factors that are favorable and unfavorable to achieving that objective. The technique is credited to Albert Humphrey, who led a research project at Stanford University in the 1960s and 1970s using data
Strategic Use: Orienting SWOTs to An Objective
If SWOT analysis does not start with defining a desired end state or objective, it runs the risk of being useless. A SWOT analysis may be incorporated into the strategic planning model. An example of a strategic planning technique that incorporates an objective-driven SWOT analysis is SCAN analysis. Strategic Planning, including SWOT and SCAN analysis, has been the subject of much research.
If a clear objective has been identified, SWOT analysis can be used to help in the pursuit of that objective. In this case, SWOTs are:
Strengths: attributes of the organization that are helpful to achieving the objective. Weaknesses: attributes of the organization those are harmful to achieving the objective. Opportunities: external conditions those are helpful to achieving the objective. Threats: external conditions that is harmful to achieving the objective. Identification of SWOTs is essential because subsequent steps in the process of planning for achievement of the selected objective are to be derived from the SWOTs. First, the decision makers have to determine whether the objective is attainable, given the SWOTs. If the objective is NOT attainable a different objective must be selected and the process repeated.
Creative Use of SWOTs: Generating Strategies
If, on the other hand, the objective seems attainable, the SWOTs are used as inputs to the creative generation of possible strategies, by asking and answering each of the following four questions, many times:
How can we Use each Strength?
How can we stop each Weakness?
How can we exploit each Opportunity?
How can we defend against each Threat?
Ideally a cross-functional team or a task force that represents a broad range of perspectives should carry out the SWOT analysis. For example, a SWOT team may include an accountant, a salesperson, an executive manager, an engineer, and an ombudsman.
Evidence on the Use of SWOT
SWOT analysis may limit the strategies considered in the evaluation. "In addition, people who use SWOT might conclude that they have done an adequate job of planning and ignore such sensible things as defining the firm's objectives or calculating ROI for alternate strategies."  Findings from Menon et al. (1999)
 and Hill and Westbrook (1997)
 have shown that SWOT may harm performance. As an alternative to SWOT, J. Scott Armstrong describes a 5-step approach alternative that leads to better corporate performance.
These criticisms are addressed to an old version of SWOT analysis that precedes the SWOT analysis described above under the heading "Strategic and Creative Use of S.W.O.T. Analysis." This old version did not require that SWOTs be derived from an agreed upon objective. Examples of SWOT analyses that do not state an objective are provided below under "Human Resources" and "Marketing."
Internal and external factors
the aim of any SWOT analysis is to identify the key internal and external factors that are important to achieving the objective. SWO.analysis groups key pieces of information into two main categories:
Internal factors – The strengths and weaknesses internal to the organization. External factors – The opportunities and threats presented by the external environment. The internal factors may be viewed as strengths or weaknesses depending upon their impact on the organization's objectives. What may represent strengths with respect to one objective may be...
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