12 08 2010

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

Twitter: @cowanglobal



4 responses

13 08 2010
Chris Johnson

SWOT analysis or no SWOT analysis, if you don’t do something with the analysis then it’s a waste of time and resource. SWOT is just one technique that provides a structure to analyse your business. It’s been around for a while and will always be around in some way shape or form – it’s taught on degree courses! The SWOT analysis technique is one thing, it’s more about being honest about your strenghts and weaknesses whilst seeing out your opportunities and minimising the threats. Most importantly, it’s about doing something with your weaknesses and having the backbone to make some difficult decsions (perhaps).

16 08 2010
Heidi O'Leska

A competitive analysis in combination with the SWOT Analysis is the secret to success in marketing. Without this analysis, the opportunities for marketing are not apparent. A succesful brand cannot be established without it. Unfortunately, most business owners don’t understand the value. As a marketing and branding strategist, I insist on these strategies, without it, I will not be able to help my clients grow.

9 12 2010
Alexander Repiev

With dozens of profit-earning marketing projects under my belt I’m now dead sure that for the allegedly multidisciplinary exercise called SWOT is a Stupid Waste of Time. I’ve seen many SWOTs practiced, but not a single result obtained. At the same time, because it saves one the trouble of thinking, SWOT is a blessing for professors and bureaucratic marketing functions manned by Kotleroid alumni. SWOT reports are fantastic candidates as decorations of cover-your-ass useless reams. I reckon it’s also a silver bulling for all sorts of brandologists.
See “The Augean stables of academic marketing” –

3 02 2011
Kelli Kalgren

I’m a SWOT advocate. I’m also not solely a marketer. I’m a designer primarily of advertising. I find that a SWOT analysis helps me with brainstorming. It sort of gets some research and facts on the table, before the creative process begins. It works for me.

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