If you’re looking to analyze a business or product, SWOT analysis can be a straight-forward, but yet extremely effective tool. It takes into account only the most important factors (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats), but still provides a good outlook on the circumstances your organization or venture finds or might find itself in.
SWOT analyses are often praised for their simplicity — you list the different variables on paper (or in a ‘SWOT Matrix’, i.e. a SWOT table), and can make some meaningful conclusions just by reviewing them. However, many individuals may run into uncertainty when trying to decide whether or not something fits into one of the categories, and if so, which?
In this series of articles, we’ll be focusing individually on each of the four categories, explaining their definitions and importance, and giving informative examples. Strengths in SWOT analysis have already been covered, which leaves weaknesses for this article.
W is for Weaknesses: Definition
Every organization or venture has its weaknesses — things that they don’t do so well (or even do poorly), or things that aren’t so good about them/it. Weaknesses are particularly noteworthy if they prevent you from achieving your ‘mission’ (even if that’s just earning money), or make doing so more difficult. This might mean unnecessarily leaking finances, improperly targeting clients, or poorly executing a service, among other things.
In more robust terms, we say that weaknesses are negative and internal — they cause harm (or prevent benefit), and are intrinsically related to how the organization is managed or the venture is realized.
The difference between weaknesses and threats is much like the difference between strengths and opportunities: that the latter is external. This means that every organization or venture competing in the same space faces the same threats, but the weaknesses are unique to how the entity is run/designed.
Weaknesses: Why include them?
If you know your weaknesses, you can work towards improving them. As mentioned previously, some weaknesses can prevent you from achieving your mission and goals, so if you can get rid of them, it’s certainly worth doing so.
Examples of Weaknesses in SWOT Analysis
A few good examples should help to clarify what exactly constitutes a ‘weakness’. Here are some both general and specific examples:
- Unfriendly staff for a service-related business: if your clients interact with your workers a lot, it’s important that they get along. For a service-related business to have unfriendly staff would be a big weakness — current and potential customers would be deterred, sales would drop, and so would profits.
- Over-complexity for a tech product aimed at less savvy users: if a product’s target market is less tech-savvy users, then they should at least be able to understand how to use it, if not how it works. Making the documentation and usage unnecessarily difficult would constitute a weakness, as the number of potential clients would decrease, as well as the number of satisfied clients.
- High crash and bug rates for newer Windows operating systems: starting from Windows Vista, Microsoft’s ‘Windows’ line of operating systems have gained internet notoriety for their high number of issues, occurring especially at release. This has lead to some clients switching to more reliable alternatives, like Linux, or more straightforward alternatives, like Apple Macintosh operating systems.
- Unethical production for Nike: many of the world’s biggest apparel and footwear companies, including Nike, have been accused of exploiting workers in the Far East with low wages, and poor ‘sweatshop’ working conditions. Check out this PESTLE analysis of Nike for a source and more relevant information.
- High price point for Starbucks: while this example is more subject to opinion, some might state that Starbucks’ high price point on almost all products deters a large portion of less well-off customers, and in turn loses them profit. However, others might argue that the high prices are definitive in their branding and necessary for good quality.
For more examples, be sure to check out our complete SWOT analyses available here.
Bringing it all to a conclusion, weaknesses are negative, internal properties of all organizations and ventures. They warrant attention, as otherwise they can prevent the reaching of goals or realizing of missions. Examples of weaknesses are visible in every organization, even powerful, global ones across service and goods sectors.
Do you know of other specific examples of weaknesses in SWOT analysis? If so, do let us know in the section below, along with your questions and comments.