Thursday, September 23, 2010

Don't Use SWOT Again Until You Have Read This! (Thesis Months)

SWOT analysis diagram in English language.Image via WikipediaAs Mike Finnegan points out in his recently completed thesis, Evaluating SWOT's Value In Creating Actionable Strategic Intelligence, the strengths-weaknesses-opportunities-threats analytic method is "one of the most popular analytic techniques among competitive intelligence professionals".

Popular, yes.  Effective?  Not so fast.
Mike's survey of over 100 business people with real-world strategic planning responsibilities and experience using SWOT in the workplace paints a very different picture of the value of this technique -- a picture that should have consequences not only for the way it is used but also the way it is taught.
Specifically, Mike found that:
  • SWOT adds value only indirectly to the strategic planning process
  • SWOT is performed far less often than necessary if it is to achieve even these limited goals (up to four times less often than necessary if I am reading Mike's data correctly).
  • SWOT should not be used as a standalone technique under any circumstances
The entire thesis is well worth the read for anyone interested in evaluating analytic methodologies in general or SWOT analysis in particular.  Mike collected a number of comments from his survey participants and they serve to ground the statistical data in the complexities of the real world -- to add qualitative gravitas to his quantitative research.

You can view the embedded file below or go here for the download (Note:  The file was clearly corrupted when Mike uploaded it to Scribd.  All the content is there but some of the pictures and graphs were moved around in weird ways.  Hopefully Mike will be able to fix it.  In the meantime, the data is still there -- it is just not as "pretty" as it was in the original format.)
Evaluating SWOT's Value In Creating Actionable, Strategic Intelligence
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