SWOT Analysis Assignment – the basics & method

SWOT Analysis Assignment – the basics


What is a SWOT analysis?

SWOT analysis

In simple terms a SWOT is a look at the factors and influences which may be considered a Strength, Weakness, Opportunity or Threat to an organization, its mission or goal or its current business plan/ objective.

Assignments on SWOT & Business

When studying management, marketing, business or human resources, it is not uncommon to be asked to complete a SWOT analysis assignment. What often makes this difficult is that it is also typically one of the first assignments students get assigned early on in the course so it is doubly difficult.

As you look around the web you are looking for an example to base your assignment on – for example you may have been asked to do a SWOT analysis on:

Amazon, American Airlines,  Apple,  ASDA,  Best buy, BMW, Body Shop, Bose, British Airways, Burger King, Cadbury’s, Cafe Nero, Coca-Cola, Dell, EasyJet, EBay, English National Opera, Ericsson, Ford, French Connection (Fcuk), Google, Harley-Davidson, Heinz, Hewlett-Packard (HP), Home Depot, B & Q, HTC, IKEA, KFC, Krispy Kreme,  Lenovo, LG, Marks and Spencer (M&S), McDonalds, Mercedes Benz,  Microsoft, Morrisons, Nike, Nissan, Nokia, O2, Orange, Pepsi, Pizza Hut, RadioShack, Reebok, Renault, Rolls Royce, Ryanair, Samsung, Sony, Starbucks, Talktalk, Tata, Tesco, Three, T-Mobile, Toshiba, Toyota, Trebor Bassett, Vauxhall, Virgin, Vodafone, Walmart, Wella, Yumm Foods

….. or indeed 1000’s of other companies, colleges, groups, industries and sectors.

The one danger of looking for such “ready made” SWOT analysis is that before they get to the web they are out of date – and may indeed contain significantly out of date materials. For example a SWOT may have been done before the banks needed finance to survive, or on retail before the recession hit and changed many of their strengths.

Using the work of previous people may seem like it is giving you an advantage – it is not.

Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and threats of the SWOT analysis are very much transient. Some factors may well be stable for years, or at least financial quarters, other factors may be less predictable. For example HMV for the past 2 years have been developing and branching out into new areas to satisfy shareholder and customer expectations, however as I write this piece they are in discussions with banks regarding funding to manage a difficult cash-flow situation. n just 6 months HMV may not exists.

This means copying research from others done months if not years earlier is in fact one of the most dangerous things you could do – I hope that tutors penalise students for doing this. SWOT is a greatly undervalued and under-used management tool which deserves to be a core skill. the more you do (and dynamically) the better you will get at it.

SWOt analysisSWOT Analysis the basics

A SWOT analysis just one of the tools available to managers and organizations to frovide a framework to help understand and analyise its market position or markets where it sells its products. SWOT can also be used to look at processes and product (or service) ranges it offers.

SWOT as we know stands for the Strengths and Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats which the organization perceives.

Strengths and weaknesses consider the internal (controllable) factors and Opportunities and Threats are external from the organization and to a greater or lesser extent are not controllable. They are the environment or context in which the organization operates.

Using the data gathered in the SWOT process, this information can be prioritised and a judgement made as to the likelihood and impact on the organization and its business.

SWOT is a tool to help structure the data collection to aid the decision making process. SWOT is actually an audit tool, rather than an analysis tool.

How to do a SWOT

Much like the saying – How do you eat an elephant – one bite at a time, a SWOT can be approached in much the same way:

Much like good practice brainstorming, the best way is for any individual involved in the SWOT to work on their own and to brainstorm Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities & Threats (use of the PRIMO-F & PESTLE frameworks can help). Then after researching on the internet, company accounts, industry reports etc – add more factors.

When this is done then a group activity should take each of the factors identified under Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities & Threats and build a complete table.

Risk Matrix for SWOT analysisWhen this is done groups should look at each part of the table (S, W, O or T) and prioritise factors based on the likelihood and severity of impact (risk assess). When this is complete the assignment/ business plan can be written to recognise these factors and identify plans or strategies for dealing with the critical factors.

 

A SWOT review on SWOT:

Strengths – simple, flexible, quick, can be in-depth

Weaknesses – relies on those doing it to cover all factors, appears simplistic, too simple?, appears weak/ not robust

Opportunities – helps to see a business or organization from different perspectives, to review the “current state” on a regular basis

Threats – significant risks to the business, organization or plan may be ignored,  Politically managers may not like what they see

 

For more information see our main page on SWOT Analysis




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.

Need to know more about SWOT analysis? then check out Mike Morrison's Book - Strategic Business Diagnostic Tools on Amazon or on Kindle

For more on SWOT analysis read our other articles. 


 

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About Mike Morrison

Mike Morrison is a consultant and change agent specialising in developing skills in senior people to increase organizational performance.
Mike provides training & development in senior management, leadership, change management & other strategic programs to an international client base.
Mike is also founder & director of RapidBI, an organizational effectiveness consultancy.

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