SWOT Analysis: Spotting the 6 Biggest Mistakes » Mind Tools Blog
SWOT Analysis: How to Avoid the 5 Biggest Mistakes

SWOT Analysis: Spotting the 6 Biggest Mistakes

July 6, 2017

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Do you want to really get the most from a SWOT Analysis, and better understand your company’s strengths and weaknesses?

Let us help you to identify and avoid the most common SWOT Analysis pitfalls – such as a lack of focus or underestimating your weaknesses – and develop effective business plans for your company.

But first, a brief explanation.

What is SWOT Analysis?

SWOT Analysis is a self-questioning technique that helps you to identify your Strengths (what do you do better than anyone else?) and Weaknesses (what factors lose you sales?).

It’s also used to spot possible Opportunities (what interesting business trends are you noticing?) and potential Threats (what are your competitors doing?).

By methodically answering several questions in each category, it allows you to distinguish yourself from your competitors. You can also gain a competitive advantage by assessing your company’s strengths and market position.

However, people can make a number of common mistakes when they are carrying out a SWOT Analysis.

1: Lists Too Long

Be careful not to end up with a huge list of suggestions under each of the categories.

A long list can be hard to manage, so try to do some gentle pruning as ideas appear. Ask yourself if that idea is financially feasible now. Or, whether you really have room for seven more staff members.

2: Vagueness

Try to ensure that each point made is reasonably specific.

A certain level of generality is fine at this early stage (we need to increase our sales). However, a more specific point (we need to increase our sales by introducing shift work for the sales team) will provide more focus in any later discussions.

3: Not Seeing Weaknesses

It’s sometimes hard for an organization to accept that it has serious weaknesses. So, it might be useful to briefly chat with your customers during the SWOT Analysis process and ask what they think your company’s most serious weakness is.

Or, have a brief meeting with colleagues from outside the overall analysis. This will give you an outsider’s perspective.

4: Keep Thinking Forward

As you are collecting lists of suggestions and ideas, keep in mind that the goal of any SWOT Analysis is to increase sales by seeking out new opportunities.

The analysis process should clearly indicate where your organization is now, and where it needs to be in one year, five years or ten years in order to achieve that goal.

It’s easy to come up with nice ideas without taking them through to their logical or conclusion. For example, providing free lunches to all staff is a nice gesture. But, what evidence is there that it will increase profitability?

5: Be Realistic About Opportunities

While it’s important to get excited about new opportunities, try not to predict and plan for opportunities that don’t exist yet. For example, that export market you’ve been eyeing may become available at some point, but the trade negotiations to finally open it up could take years to complete.

Don’t forget that a newly opened market segment will also be available to your direct competitors.

6: Don’t Rely on SWOT Analysis Alone

SWOT Analysis is a valuable planning and assessment tool. It can offer real insights into many aspects of your organization. However, when used in conjunction with other business planning tools (SOAR or PEST), the results will be more vigorous.

Give Us Your Thoughts

Have any other suggestions or advice on how best to use a SWOT Analysis? Have your say by adding your comments in the box below. And for more ideas, check out our latest infographic on SWOT Analysis here.


10 thoughts on “SWOT Analysis: Spotting the 6 Biggest Mistakes

  1. Tia Miller wrote:

    Great information! Thank you!

    1. Midgie Thompson wrote:

      Glad to hear you liked the article and found it useful.

  2. David Mashaba wrote:

    Thanks for the information it is really helpful and useful.I have learnt a lot today

    1. Yolande Conradie wrote:

      That’s great to hear, David. The SWOT analysis is still, after all these years, a very useful tool!

  3. Joshua mabuya wrote:

    The information has really helped me.to come up with new strategic business views especially on swot analysis.THANKS IN ADVANCE

    1. Yolande Conradie wrote:

      You’re welcome, Joshua, it’s great to hear that the blog post was helpful to you.

  4. SUSANTA KUMAR MOHANTY wrote:

    THE SWOT ANALISIS ON SWOT FOR MY BUSINESS PLANNING IS VERY NICE. I NEED MORE ELABROTE ON THE SAME TOPIC.

    1. Yolande Conradie wrote:

      A good place to start would be to do a swot analysis for your business and then to come up with specific questions based on your analysis.

      Yolande, Mind Tools Team

  5. Brijesh Singh wrote:

    Its Awesome article and useful

    1. Midgie Thompson wrote:

      Thank you for that feedback Brijesh and pleased to hear that you found it useful. Hope you enjoy more of our resources here to help you in your career and personal life.

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