The origins of SWOT analysis

Richard W. Puyt, Finn Birger Lie, Celeste P.M. Wilderom

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The origins of SWOT analysis have been enigmatic, until now. With archival research, interviews with experts and a review of the available literature, this paper reconstructs the original SOFT/SWOT approach, and draws potential implications. During a firm's planning process, all managers are asked to write down 8 to 10 key planning issues faced by their units. Each manager grades, with evidence, these issues as either safeguarding the Satisfactory; opening Opportunities; fixing Faults; or thwarting Threats: hence SOFT (which is later merely relabeled to Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats, or SWOT). Subgroups of managers have several dialogues about these issues with the instruction to include the needs and expectations of all the firm's stakeholders. Their developed resolutions or proposals become input for the executive planning committee to articulate corporate purpose(s) and strategies. SWOT's originator, Robert Franklin Stewart, emphasized the crucial role that creativity plays in the planning process. The SOFT/SWOT approach curbs mere top-down strategy making to the benefit of strategy alignment and implementation; Introducing digital means to parts of SWOT's original participative, long-range planning process, as suggested herein, could boost the effectiveness of organizational strategizing, communication and learning. Archival research into the deployment of SOFT/SWOT in practice is needed.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102304
Number of pages24
JournalLong range planning
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2023


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