On Friday 9/18/09, I led a half-day workshop entitled Perfect Your Pitch. As a part of developing the content for a successful pitch, I took the participants through a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis. When we were evaluating Strengths and Weaknesses, I advised the group to explore their strengths and ignore their weaknesses to determine potential priorities and challenges. One participant asked: "Shouldn't we try to fix our weaknesses instead of ignoring them?"
Completely ignoring the things that your organization doesn't do well is not the whole truth. Every organization should know what they do really well. It takes an honest, objective analysis for them to know what they do poorly.
Unfortunately, many organizations waste precious resources on training, infrastructure development, and human resources to prop up an offering or line of business that is actually dragging the organization down. They do this for a number of reasons, including to look like a "full service" organization, to capture what looks like low hanging fruit, and/or to foster a culture of ownership and refuse to let go of lost causes. Inevitably, clinging to these resource drains will remove capacity from the areas in which the group is strong. This refusal to avoid weaknesses eventually appear in the form of dwindling net profits.
The way to address this is to first acknowledge the weakness. Know that it is something that you do rather poorly. It's okay if, for example, you're a law firm and do not handle criminal cases. There are plenty of capable attorneys out there who would appreciate the referrals so that you can stay focused on business law and estate planning.
Once you acknowledge the weakness, determine if it is absolutely critical to the survival of your organization. If the answer is yes, then you have a major issue. That weakness isn't really a weakness: it's a threat. Instead of throwing resources at it to enhance it, you should be doing everything possible to stamp it out. If the weakness is NOT vital to your survival, then just ignore it. Be aware of it, but find a solution that does not tie up your organization's resources.
To acknowledge what you don't do well and need to improve starts the conversation regarding whether each weak spot is a weakness or a threat. A weakness is a feature, offering, or characteristic which the organization can comfortably ignore or hire out to someone else. If your strategy integrates abilities on which you cannot profitably deliver, the entire strategy is flawed. The organization needs to take a harder look at strengths and reshape offerings to leverage only the strengths and opportunities.
Any strong organization stays focused at all times on exploring their strengths and exploiting opportunities. Threats must be confronted, and weaknesses should be avoided. If you find that you're confronting or exploring weaknesses, you're wasting your time. These fruitless activities are as tragic as avoiding opportunities. Stop fixing your weaknesses and expend those resources on exploring your strengths. Your bottom line will be so glad that you did.
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