A Fundamental Element of Strategic Planning
By Dana Baldwin, Senior Consultant
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 have published a series of articles with elements of analysis of strengths and weaknesses explored in each article. This is the fifth article in the series.
For each of these areas which pertain to your whole company, you should ask:
What are the things we do which the customer values and will pay for?
Are there things we do which the customer values, but will not pay for? Why?
What do we do for the customer that ends up benefiting us both?
If many of our customer services or products result in a win-win situation for us
both, how can we exploit this to our mutual advantage?
How can we take advantage of this to gain or keep a competitive advantage over
What resources do we have within or available to the company that will add something to our relationships with our customers?
What features or benefits do we provide to our customers that are important to
How can we use this to distinguish ourselves versus our competition?
How do outsiders see us and what do they perceive as being our strengths?
What do we provide that makes them want to continue to do business with us?
How can we build on this to sustain or improve our business?
What can we improve?
Are there changes we can make which will make a modest strength even stronger,
or which will add to our competitive position?
Will the customer value this and be willing to pay for it?
Is there anything we do poorly? How does this impact the customer? What do we need to do about it?
Individual areas within the company which might be considered for our analysis of strengths and weaknesses could include: (Each area should be considered based on the particular company, its markets, competition, customers, products and services offered.)
Marketing: How do we build general and specific awareness of our company in the minds of our potential customers?
Sales: Those direct activities which result in our customers ordering our products and services.
Production Capabilities/Service Capabilities: Those activities which result in our providing products and/or services to our customers.
Accounting, including A/R and A/P: While not usually included in strengths and weaknesses in most analyses, we suggest that this area be included to the extent that it impacts any interactions with customers. Done poorly, this area can be a major irritant to customers, possibly resulting in loss of business and alienation of customer personnel.
Administration: Does our leadership provide clear, unambiguous goals, communicated effectively to everyone in the company? Do our leaders allow people to function with an appropriate level of responsibility and authority, stepping in only to help guide and assist, or do they micromanage, limiting initiative resourcefulness?
Human Resources: Does HR support the mission of the company effectively, with good communication and even-handed administration of policies and benefits? How does HR contribute to the effectiveness of the company?
Intangibles – such as responsiveness, flexibility, reputation, follow through on commitments, etc.: Each of these depends on the type of company, the need for each of these characteristics in the marketplace and within the company. Each should be considered for its effectiveness both inside and outside the company.
Establishing where the company stands in terms of strengths and weaknesses is an important component of the discovery phase of strategic planning, as it helps establish the base for analysis and development of plans for the future of the company. Done well, this analysis will help the strategic planning team develop effective plans for the future course and direction of the company.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
© Copyright 2015 by Center for Simplified Strategic Planning, Inc., Ann Arbor, MI — Reprint permission granted with full attribution.