6 Nov

Are All Weaknesses Really Opportunities in Disguise? Thoughts on the SWOT Analysis

By: Kaity Dunn, Account Associate

I lead a volunteer team for a community group at my church, and recently we met to do a SWOT analysis of the group in preparation for 2014. This was interesting for me, because we do this often in the public relations world for our clients in Cincinnati. SWOT stands for:

• Strengths
• Weaknesses
• Opportunities
• Threats

Strengths and weaknesses refer to the internal factors of the organization, while opportunities and threats relate to the external factors of the organization. At the meeting, we breezed through our strengths rather quickly. I had about five or six on the list of our accomplishments and changes made throughout this past year, and I could tell the team was feeling good about the discussion. However, the flow of the conversation changed once we got to topic of weaknesses. There was a palpable change in the energy of the room, and one of my team members mentioned that they never use the term “weakness” when doing SWOT analyses at their workplace. Instead, they say everything is an “opportunity.” Therefore, in the place of saying, “We have a lack of communication between departments,” they would say, “We have an opportunity to increase our level of communication within departments.” The first sentence is certainly negative, but it has a clarity that the second statement does not have. The first statement is easier to solve. The second statement is vague and more difficult to address.

The term “weakness” hints at vulnerability, to which our society has a distinct aversion. However, masking weaknesses by grouping them with opportunities creates confusion. Weaknesses must be clearly identified in order to be addressed and remedied. If you sincerely hate the word “weakness,” I suggest you call the “W” in the SWOT analysis “We can improve…(fill in the blank.)”

Have you ever had trouble beginning discussions around weaknesses?

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