The SWOT analysis has long been a favoured technique of those involved in formulating strategy. But when was the last time someone stopped to ask whether it is a worthwhile piece of work or a waste of time?
It is often true that things are done the way they are done, not because it is the best way to do things but because that is the way they have always been done. Until someone comes along with that ‘hang on a minute….’ thought and starts asking questions.
In 1997, Hill and Westbrook* had their ‘hang on a minute….’ moment and went out and surveyed 50 UK companies to look at their strategy writing processes.
They found that only 20 (40%) of the companies surveyed even used the SWOT analysis (incredibly with the help of fourteen different consultants) and that of those 20 none used the results of their SWOT analyses when formulating their strategy.
So, in short, of 50 companies 40% carried out SWOT analyses and 0% (zero) used a SWOT analyses to inform strategy.
But is this really surprising? Wherever you find a strength you will likely also find a weakness, the same for opportunities and threats.
If strategy is the means by which we achieve our vision how important is a SWOT analysis to our route map to success? And if we never did another SWOT analysis again, apart from the saving in terms of time and money, would we even notice?
*T Hill and Roy Westbrook (1997). SWOT analysis. It’s time for a product recall. Long Range Planning. 30(I), 46-53
Further reading on employing the SWOT Analysis: ‘Analysing Your Organisation – The SWOT Analysis’ (July 2011)
© Jim Cowan, Cowan Global Limited,2010