View All Articles

Strengths and Weaknesses – Part One

A Fundamental Element of Strategic Planning

By Dana Baldwin, Senior Consultant

Strategic Planning Expert

Strategic Planning Expert

Listing of a company’s strengths and weaknesses are a normal part of any attempt at strategic planning for virtually all companies.  Why do we perform these analyses, and what do we expect to learn by doing them? To be sure the company is headed in the right direction, a competent, thoughtful review and updating of your strengths and weaknesses is a fundamental element of good strategic planning.  We are publishing a series of articles with elements of analysis of strengths and weaknesses explored in each article.  This is the first one.

We must be sure we are actually doing the analysis of our strengths and weaknesses properly. Some teams just get together and throw a bunch of ideas on the page or flip chart, then go on to their next exercise. Little additional thought is given to the importance or impact of strengths and weaknesses and the reasons for defining them and analyzing them.

To set the stage for analysis of strengths and weaknesses, the team should first discuss why the team is looking for them, what is being looked for, and what will be done with the results when they have completed their work.

Simply put, your strengths are those things that your company does well which help you perform your jobs, deliver value to your customers and/or give you an advantage over your competition. They are some of the cornerstones you use to build your business and to build and maintain competitive advantages in the market place.

Why should your team determine your weaknesses? Most people answer that the team needs to correct weaknesses in order to remain competitive and effective. The real reason your team should determine what your weaknesses are is to get them out in the open, with everyone in basic agreement that these are actually weaknesses, so the team can determine what to do about each one, if anything.

Why wouldn’t your team want to address and correct each weakness? There are other considerations which must be taken into account.

Recognize that we can’t possibly be good at everything. For example: Look at WalMart and Tiffany. WalMart appeals to value buyers looking for basic goods.  What are WalMart’s strengths? Supply chain management and low prices on high volume products. What are Tiffany’s strengths? Upscale fine jewelry at high prices, individualized service and appeal to the highest economic groups.

What would happen to WalMart if they tried to appeal to Tiffany’s customers? And, what would happen to Tiffany if they attempted to appeal to WalMart’s customers? In both cases, they could likely lose focus, change the business model to the point where they could well lose their major customer base and suffer in the process. Each company focuses its efforts to maximize results in its own core business, and does not get distracted into areas where it may have limited appeal and expertise. This example helps to show that we need to choose those characteristics (strengths) which help us build our business most effectively and address only those critical weaknesses which truly interfere with or prevent us from being successful.

To learn ways to take your strategic planning to the next level please listen to our webinar:  Why my strategic planning isn’t working.

M. Dana Baldwin is a Senior Consultant with Center for Simplified Strategic Planning, Inc. He can be reached by email at: baldwin@cssp.com

© Copyright 2015 by Center for Simplified Strategic Planning, Inc., Ann Arbor, MI — Reprint permission granted with full attribution.