Sunday, July 15, 2007

Your greatest strength is also your greatest weakness

For many people and businesses the first place to start examining themselves is to perform a S.W.O.T analysis. The write down their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. This then helps identify what needs improvement and what can be taken advantage of.

What many probably don't realize is that some of your greatest strengths can also be your greatest weaknesses. Sound strange well consider this. A person who is determined and disciplined to overcome challenges and adversity may also be accused of being stubborn and pigheaded. It is very likely that people with these qualities can find themselves missing opportunities because they aren't open to change or new ideas. Probably for most strengths that you could name about yourself or your business, if you thought hard and long enough about them I'm sure you could identify where they may also contribute to weaknesses.

For example one of the great strengths of a business like IBM was its size. It had a huge market share and a massive salesforce but in the end its size turned out to be its undoing. It wasn't fast enough to see the revolution that happened in personal computers. It allowed a more nimble upstart, like Compaq, to jump into the void and take market share and opportunity away from it. Another example would be Lotus or Wordperfect. Effectively these companies had a 100% market share of the spreadsheet and word processing market. Where are they today ? Confined to being also rans with market share in single digits and falling. How could any business with 100% market share allow this to happen ? They sat back, relying on their strengths to carry them through, they didn't continue to work and improve, they became arrogant. The reasons are many and varied, however it is clear that their greatest strength also became their greatest weakness.

So does this mean that we only have weaknesses ? No, because the strengths are there they just need one important factor to ensure they don't turn into weaknesses. What is this ? Well, it is no secret, we have talked about it before. It is BALANCE. If you lose the balance of your strengths then they run risk of becoming weaknesses. You should now see that we are almost back where we started this discussion. We are back talking about BALANCE and from there we move onlto CONTROL and so on.

As I have said, it isn't anything mystic or hidden. As they say it is just the “circle of life”. They key to improvement is to keep working on it, when it comes around again ( and it will ) take some time and continue to improve it. There is very little chance that you'll get something right the first time, the secret is probably to do the best you can, put it aside and work on the next thing. When the challenge arises again it should now be a bit easier and you have learnt more that can help improve it this time. So you work at it a little more, put it away and so. I like to think of it as working on a great sculpture. You know the final result is in the block of granite, it is just hidden. The challenge is to chip away and reveal the result that only you know is there.

This is how it progresses. It doesn't make sense to fight it, although many people do. Like it or hate it, that's life.