Saturday, September 13, 2014

Strategy: Create and Implement the Best Strategy for Your Business- Chapters 1 & 2

Strategy: Create and Implement the Best Strategy for Your Business- Chapters 1 & 2
By: Harvard Business Essentials

The first two chapters of this book analyze SWOT analysis and examine the external environments of opportunities and threats while also looking internally for strengths and weakness. The SWOT model provides choices to help make practical goals and strategies for better operations within organizations.

According to Harvard Business Essentials, SWOT is categorized as:
Strengths are capabilities that enable your company or unit to perform well – capabilities that need to be leveraged. Weaknesses are characteristics that prohibit your company or unit from performing well and need to be addressed. Opportunities are trends, forces, events, and ideas that your company or unit can capitalize on. Threats are possible events or forces outside of your control that your company or unit needs to pan for or decide how to mitigate.”

Every organization has goals; to achieve these goals, organizations may use SWOT to clarify and envision the challenges they face. Considering an organization’s external (Opportunities and Threats) and internal (Strengths and Weaknesses) factors are vital because they clarify the issues and facilitate the organization to do better. For example, the first chapter identifies technology and substitutes as both internal and external threat factors.  Using both of these factors to uncover threats and opportunities may affect the organization’s mission and plan. Internally, strengths and weaknesses can identify and change core competencies within organizations.

According to Harvard Business Essentials, different trends may affect businesses and form the basis of a new strategy; therefore, uncovering an area in which significant change is happening.  To help the process, the book outlines nine basic steps for establishing a collection method:

“Step 1: Select an individual to facilitate the analysis
Step 2: Create a SWOT team of knowledge individuals from different functional areas of the company
Step 3: Brainstorm the company or unit’s strengths.
Step 4: Record all suggestions on a flip chart
Step 5: Consolidate ideas. Post all flip chart pages on a wall.
Step 6: Clarify ideas.
Step7: Identify the top three strengths
Step 8: Summarize company strengths.
Step 9: Repeat steps 2-6 for company or unit weaknesses.”

An organization should conduct these nine steps for both the external and internal factors. After these nine steps are completed, the information should be complied and put into a formal report for management to review.

Although the first two chapters of this book are a good explanation of SWOT analysis, the publication does not go into detail on any of the concerns SWOT conveys. Although organizations value information, one weakness is that management may not utilize the information provided. In addition, the collection method provided could be time consuming and become redundant by providing information already known by the organization. However, the book did provide valuable examples and tips which makes SWOT analysis a strategic value. For example, for SWOT to take effect, organizations need to be respectful and effective to change. People need to feel motivated and accustomed to working in groups and organizations need to provide rewards for good performance. 


Press, Harvard Business School. 2005. Strategy: Create and Implement the Best Strategy for Your Business. Boston, Mass: Harvard Business School Press.


  1. I like how the nine step process referenced above is referred to as a collection method. A pervasive mindset that Finnegan found in the SWOT article I reviewed was a tendency to see the four quadrants as the final "output" of the technique. Guiding the organization on what to do with the findings and how to execute a plan is completely different then simply filling in the quadrants.

    The article I reviewed found that "using SWOT (even if only informally) breaks down “silos” within organizations, promotes communication within all areas of an organization, allows for the organization to gain perspective about a situation from multiple levels.."

    We know that time is a scarce resource, do you think that the potential to break down silos within an organization is greater than the risk of collecting redundant information via SWOT?

  2. What does a company do once they have collected their 3 strengths and weaknesses? Additionally, are there any guidelines in determining the strengths and weaknesses?

  3. I think to break down silos it will take more than a quarter, therefore, the information gather may be redundant. If a company processed SWOT every year, or twice a year that may change the outcome and minimize the risk.

  4. John, once the company collects their three strengths and weaknesses they conduct a SWOT. The book does not offer advice for guidelines, just the nine step process.