SWOT Analysis – an email question
Yes another article on SWOT analysis.
On this site we have several pages exploring the SWOT analysis, and from time to time we receive emails asking for help. Usually from students on university or professional courses studying Management, Business studies or Human Resources.
On this occasion I felt that rather then just a personal reply, that it should form the content of an article in its own right.
The question was:
I came across your website, and details about SWOT analysis. It was a good read altogether.
I am a university student in Pakistan, and currently I have to conduct SWOT analysis of a regional school in Lahore. From my own understanding, the questions that I had framed were broad initially, and called for specific information, internal to the organization. Upon asking request to give responses, the administration refused saying that its not in a position to provide the answer.
Upon further inquiry from other colleagues, they were of the view that I have to re-frame my questions in view of the limitations in our society. From what I know about US/UK, I believe student-researchers are given support when it comes to researching and analyzing organizations (Correct me if I am wrong), but here, I am faced with a lot of difficulties in approaching the higher up (despite letter of support from my university).I wanted to get your suggestion in :
1. Do you think the limitations of the society places pressure on the way we frame questions for SWOT?
2. Ideally, what is the best way to gain information for SWOT analysis? (if questionnaire/interview is chosen, how should I frame the questions?)
3. I need to understand how that regional school is lacking in certain weaknesses, but what is the good way to ask this question?
I would appreciate any kinds of help you could render in this regards.
Lets look at these SWOT analysis questions one at a time:
1) Do you think the limitations of the society places pressure on the way we frame questions for SWOT Analysis?
Yes and no. In any organization there will be information that is sensitive to both commercial and competitive advantage that is on a needs to know basis only. Commercial confidence. This is arguably to protect the business/ operation from its competitors. Remember the management have no control who sees your final reports!
2) Ideally, what is the best way to gain information for SWOT analysis? (if questionnaire/interview is chosen, how should I frame the questions?
There is no “ideal” single solution or tool for data collation for a SWOT analysis. Collecting information for the SWot and the swOT factors will be different.
SW (Strengths and weaknesses use PRIMO-F analysis) can be undertaken by questionnaire, interview and performance data analysis.
OT (Opportunities and Threats use PESTLE analysis / PEST analysis) on the other hand can be best obtained by market and competitor analysis
3) I need to understand how that regional school is lacking in certain weaknesses, but what is the good way to ask this question in a SWOT analysis?
This is an interesting one. All parts of a SWOT Analysis need to be covered in a balanced way. A potentially difficult one for the area in which you live – India and Pakistan, as there is a cultural reluctance in the culture to accept “no”, cannot or weak. Having said that, few organizations actually accept (openly) that there are problems. So approaches may be:
a) explore the known “failures” – % people not completing courses, number of vacancies on a course etc
b) to look and ask about “possible areas for improvement” – for example, given an unlimited budget what operational improvements could be made in this institution?
SWOT analysis – impacts for students
When looking to complete a SWOT analysis, there is undoubtedly a difference in available information between what the managers and leaders in an organization have access to, and a person studying HR or Management who are not a part of the management of a given organization. Indeed, even being a manager does not mean you will have access to all the information the organization has.
As a student looking to complete a SWOT analysis as part of an academic study programme, all you can do is use the best information available to you. The reality is that you will not be given many of the key pieces of data. You need to be like a detective and discover much of it through the available data. Often when a firm does not release key information, there are externals resources that can help your SWOT analysis. For example company reports, educational establishment audits and reviews.
Ultimately you can only use the data someone is willing to provide for your SWOT analysis.
As a manager or consultant, not having that key data will mean a flawed (swot) analysis, and unreliable conclusions, although it can be used for discussion. Always use the deepest data available – never do a light touch SWOT. use as much data as you have available to you, and conduct primary research.
Always use the views of several people for an effective SWOT analysis, one persons view will always be biased.
A SWOT analysis is a valuable diagnostic tool, but it is only as good as the data and context considered. Remember, keep the analysis real, in context and focussed on the goal you are seeking.
When using a SWOT analysis, always use the PRIMO-F & PEST or PESTLE analysis profiles to ensure all factors are covered.
For more on SWOT analysis read our other articles.