Be Careful with SWOT Analysis. Issues and Risks of SWOT

SWOT Analysis
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Bernhard Keim
Business Consultant, Germany

Be Careful with SWOT Analysis. Issues and Risks of SWOT

I am not that happy with SWOT Analysis. My issue does not concern the tool itself, but the way it is often used. People like to make some statements with it, but the list in each of its quadrants can be endless. Everything is true, but what does really matter from all the points listed? So be careful with cherry picking (giving selective attention to particular things) to draw conclusions from a SWOT-Analysis.
Here's an example of what I mean. Let's think about the situation of a horse shoe manufacturer 110 years ago:

  • Strengths: how did it help you to be the best horse shoe manufacturer?
  • Weaknesses: did it make a difference for your future, that your marketing was weak?
  • Opportunities: there were a lot of competitors you could buy for little money.
  • Threats: there are automobiles coming up, but how can these loud and unreliable vehicles affect the business?
If you had been the boss of such a company: what might your reaction have been?
Now think of today: are you sure that your company is not acting like the horse shoe manufacturer? Too often SWOT makes people think more sophisticated, but inside the box.


Jaap de Jonge
Editor, Netherlands

Risks of SWOT Analysis: Biases

I agree Bernard. Giving selective attention to particular findings and then drawing conclusions base... Sign up

James Antwi
HR Consultant, Ghana

How to Avoid Biases in SWOT Analysis

Quite often SWOT is used for generating a ''shop list'' of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and ... Sign up

Dr. Alan Williams
Professor, Thailand

Be Careful of SWOT Analysis

I insist that all my department managers attend every senior management meeting and also I insist th... Sign up

David Stehlik
Professor, United States

History Exonerates the Horseshoe Company

Bernhard makes a great point. His concern can be covered by an approach encouraging strategic foresi... Sign up

Johannes Crol, Switzerland

Use Trends for External Analysis!

I don't like opportunities and threats as implicitly they contain the strengths and weaknesses. Ins... Sign up

Charles Alter
Consultant, United States

Use SWOT as a Starting Point

I have successfully used SWOT analysis as a starting point for big picture strategic planning and sm... Sign up

Murali Sundararaju
Coach, India

SWOT Analysis Using Collective Intelligence

Great comments by everyone and great learning. I see many other versions being mentioned such as SO... Sign up

Connie James

Avoid Strategies in SWOTs

I agree if you anchor opportunities in industry trends and data (not firm-specific strategies), it w... Sign up

Manager, Zimbabwe

SWOT Analysis is not Complete on Itself

I agree this tool should be used in combination with other tools like Porter’s 5 Forces, Scenario Pl... Sign up

Connie James

Reduce Bias in SWOT

The 1-2 page SWOTs we do, have ±50 citations that show the variety and quality of sources, forcing o... Sign up

Trevor Hudson
Consultant, United Kingdom

Use SWOT in Combination with Other Tools

In my view, for all the reasons outlined above, SWOT should absolutely not be used as a decision mak... Sign up

Gregory McGuire
Business Consultant

SWOT is a Summary Tool

I use SWOT Analysis as a summary tool. Merely using the tool to fill out the quadrants is a recipe f... Sign up

Huw Morris
Management Consultant, United Kingdom

A SWOT Needs to Be Informed by Other Analysis

I have seen very few insightful SWOT analyses. Those that were helpful were informed by other analys... Sign up

Partner, China

Very Often, SWOT Analysis Becomes a Formality

I have seen many SWOT analyses become a routine and formality in companies that does no good while r... Sign up

Bernhard Keim
Business Consultant, Germany

SWOT Analysis Provides Little Gain for Strategy

SWOT Analysis just tells you what you should know anyhow. It is not strategic, but might deliver som... Sign up

Johan Bergstroem
HR Consultant, Sweden

SWOT Step 2 Threat Assesment

I agree with @Bernhard Keim, SWOT is basically but a list of threats, etc. This is where the work s... Sign up

David Stehlik
Professor, United States

How many hours, on average, such SWOT report takes to compile?

@Connie James: Thanks. That's a great distinction. I have a follow-up inquiry. High, medium, and l... Sign up

Chris Hoe
Director, Australia

SWOT a Primitive Tool, but…

@Bernhard Keim: Analysis is done to tell you what you don't know. That is what research is all about... Sign up

Augusto Carreira
Partner, Portugal

Frankly, it Entertains a Lot!

I once worked as a Business Unit Director for a large multinational whose top management decided it ... Sign up

Pedro Ferrao
Teacher, Portugal

SWOT Follow-up: Intersecting SW with OT

In order to find strategies and actions, you must intersect the internal components (SW) with the ex... Sign up

Charles Alter
Consultant, United States

Determining SWOT Priorities

@Connie James: Excellent approach and a way of forcing prioritization for SWOT topics. This would h... Sign up

Manager, Jordan

Uncertainty and SWOT

I have a similar point of view. I see that round table discussions including variety of industry rel... Sign up

najib mohammed Saif
Turnaround Manager, Yemen

SWOT is Just a First Step, Not the Final One

Thank you Mr Bernhard for your SWOT advice. @All: Remember a SWOT analysis is not the final step, b... Sign up

Pradeep Sinha
Management Consultant, India

Combining SWOT with PESTLE

I have found that SWOT combined with PESTLE gives a better perspective and is more comprehensive. Or... Sign up

Maurice Hogarth
Consultant, United Kingdom

GIGO & SWOT Analysis

Processes are designed for rational use. As long as those who use them have an emotional stake in th... Sign up

Connie James

Hours Needed for a Well-researched SWOT

@DSTEHL: In reply to your question, ±10 hours for an expert who knows the organization and 20 or mor... Sign up


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