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SWOT analyses that glide over the W[eaknesses]

Previous posts have commented on SWOT analyses – Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (See my posts of Aug. 28, 2005 with five criticisms of the method; Dec. 9, 2005 #1 with an example from a large department; and Jan. 13, 2006 #3 about SWOT’s historical roots.). An article in MIT Sloan Mgt. Rev., Spring 2007, Vol. 48, at 96 adds another idea.

John Humphreys, a professor at Texas A&M University, explains that many leaders who conduct a SWOT analysis – and the consultants who advise them – hate to call anything a weakness. Everything is an “opportunity.” Does a law department have a crappy matter management system? Yes, but that is an “opportunity!”

A general counsel should recognize that some weaknesses can be ameliorated with proper efforts, while others can’t be changed. A law department can place a lawyer in Hong Kong to address a weakness in its support for Asian operations, but it can’t replace the CFO who harbors an antipathy toward lawyers. Furthermore, not all weaknesses are necessarily significant for the law department. Maybe the receptionist is grouchy, but so what?

As he writes, “opportunity becomes a generic pit into which a broad continuum of true opportunities and veiled weaknesses are tossed.” He urges strategists to be honest when they describe a poor situation.

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One response to “SWOT analyses that glide over the W[eaknesses]”

  1. I have thought about the SWOT analyses. I think that strengths,
    weaknesses, opportunities, and threats are open concepts. So the strategists can fill this concepts when they have concrete
    facts from the specific environment analyzed. I may say that find “the true ones” strengths, weaknesses,
    opportunities, and threats are an interpretation process which involves
    the observer and the object. Interpreter and object are mutually
    influenced. This process is like the law’s interpretation, almost everyone
    has it’s on idea and understanding about an specific rule. Then, it explains to us some distortion of interpretation like ‘hate to
    call anything a weakness’ or ‘ to see opportunities where there is just
    weaknesses and threats’. My question is: The strategy based on SWOT analyses is a subjective
    concept or an objective one? May it be the two things?