Centre for Economic Transformation | CET

Origins of SWOT Analysis


The origins of SWOT Analysis is obfuscated in the literature. This paper fills that void and reconstructs its early development in context. The empirical basis of SWOT started in 1952 within the Lockheed’s Corporate Development Planning Department.

One of its thus far unknown pioneers, Robert Franklin Stewart, became the head of the Theory and Practice of Planning group at the Stanford Research Institute in 1962. In 1965, Stewart published the so-called SOFT Approach in a report that was used by many large companies worldwide. In it, he presented a logical set of steps (the so-called chain of reasoning) for corporate aim setting.

First, stakeholders’ values are to be collected by staff planners. Then “each manager considers for each of his own activities”… “what must be done to safeguard the satisfactory in present operations;” “open de door to opportunities”; “fix the cause of faults” and ”avert the threats to future operations.”

These value judgments are then transferred into senior management’s direction-giving statements of corporate purpose. In 1967, SOFT evolved into: Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT Analysis). Stewart’s participatory aim setting ideas have faded from our collective memory as well; they might fit perhaps the ideas propelled by the Opening Strategy movement."

Reference Puyt, R. W., Lie, F. B., De Graaf, F. J., & Wilderom, C. P. M. (2020). Origins of SWOT Analysis. Paper presented at
80th Annual Meeting of the Academy of Management 2020: Broadening our Sight. https://doi.org/10.5465/AMBPP.2020.132
Published by  CAREM 1 August 2020

Publication date

Aug 2020


Richard W. Puyt
Finn B. Lie
Celeste P. M. Wilderom


Research database