SWOT analysis is a simple framework for generating strategic alternatives from a situation analysis. It is applicable to either the corporate level or the business unit level and frequently appears in marketing plans. SWOT (sometimes referred to as TOWS) stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. The SWOT framework was described in the late 1960’s by Edmund P. Learned, C. Roland Christiansen, Kenneth Andrews, and William D. Guth in Business Policy, Text and Cases (Homewood, IL: Irwin, 1969). The General Electric Growth Council used this form of analysis in the 1980’s. Because it concentrates on the issues that potentially have the most impact, the SWOT analysis is useful when a very limited amount of time is available to address a complex strategic situation.
The following diagram shows how a SWOT analysis fits into a strategic situation analysis.
Internal Analysis External Analysis
Strengths Weaknesses Opportunities Threats
The internal and external situation analysis can produce a large amount of information, much of which may not be highly relevant. The SWOT analysis can serve as an interpretative filter to reduce the information to a manageable quantity of key issues. The SWOT analysis classifies the internal aspects of the company as strengths or weaknesses and the external situational factors as opportunities or threats. Strengths can serve as a foundation for building a competitive advantage, and weaknesses may hinder it. By understanding these four aspects of its situation, a firm can better leverage its strengths, correct its
weaknesses, capitalize on golden opportunities, and deter potentially devastating threats.