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Bringing SWOT into focus

George Panagiotou suggests an improvement on a long-standing strategic planning tool

By George Panagiotou 01 June 2003

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In a rapidly changing and highly diversified world characterised by strong domestic and global competition, organisations struggle to survive. Political and economic upheavals, expanding industry boundaries, competitive activities, co-operative engagements and varied philosophies impose a multitude of constraints that firms have to cope with.


Continuously transforming technologies, deregulation, everincreasing consumer demands and expectations cause pressure and place companies under continuous risk and uncertainty when formulating strategies. Complex organisational internal issues, effective application, complementarity and co-ordination of resource requirements, paired with internal politics and the need to accomplish levels of excellence, create tension.


Consequently, organisations do not exist in a vacuum but rather they exist, co-exist, compete and cooperate in a multi-dimensional and interrelated environment characterised by ambiguity and complexity. Understanding this environment is fundamental to formulating strategy, decision making and strategic planning.


As a result, there is a proliferation of strategic planning tools to enable managers to formulate competitive strategies in line with the requirements of their business environments. These include strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) analysis, which may well be used more than any other management technique in the process of decision making.


SWOT analysis is concerned with the analysis of an organisation’s internal and external environment with the aim of identifying internal strengths in order to take advantage of its external opportunities and avoid external (and possible internal) threats, while addressing its weaknesses.


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