Rethinking SWOT: Part Three
Looking to improve on the process of identifying strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and strengths, (SWOT), part I and part II focused on moving from a list of strengths to unique strengths and calibrating opportunities at two levels: those we can tackle right away and those which would require a change in organizational structure and/or capabilities. Next, let’s see how combining weaknesses and threats into one new category can bring sharper focus and better utility to the effort.
I’ve often questioned the relative merits of identifying and listing weaknesses be they personal or organizational. I’ve gone back numerous times to review these lists developed during planning sessions. Rarely have I seen examples of a “weakness” becoming a “strength.” At best, there have been times when a “weakness” may have been elevated to a basic competency, but at what cost of time and effort?
Some time ago, I came upon the realization that, despite advice to the contrary, working on your weaknesses is not the key to success. It may well be the key to frustration and failure. The reason they are weaknesses is that you’re not any good at them. And if you work long and hard, and at the expense of dedicating time for other more productive matters, the best you might accomplish is to become barely average.
It's far better to be working on your unique strengths, maximizing the potential of each, and leveraging them toward greater outcomes. This is the case for both individuals and for organizations.
Listing threats, the final step in a SWOT analysis, can be helpful but only to a point. Here again, a review of past lists of threats indicates little if any progress in eliminating or neutralizing them from term to term. In fact, many of these threats are captured under planning assumptions, the segment of planning where the team articulates their view of the expected operating environment just ahead.
As an alternative, simply listing concerns, those items which we should be aware of can be a useful alternative to lists of “weaknesses” and “threats.” Once complete, this list of “concerns” may be prioritized by potential impact and can help planners identify key issues and obstacles likely to impede progress.
Moving from SWOT analysis to COS is a subtle but impactful change, bringing more utility and sharper, actionable focus to the planning process.
For more information on ways you can improve your planning efforts and results, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Joseph P. Truncale, Ph.D., CAE, is the Founder and Principal of Alexander Joseph Associates, a privately held consultancy specializing in executive business advisory services with clients throughout the graphic communications industry.
Joe spent 30 years with NAPL, including 11 years as President and CEO. He is an adjunct professor at NYU teaching graduate courses in Executive Leadership; Financial Management and Analysis; Finance for Marketing Decisions; and Leadership: The C Suite Perspective. He may be reached at Joe@ajstrategy.com. Phone or text: (201) 394-8160.