A little about SWOT

SWOT…. Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. The SWOT analysis technique is typically used during strategic planning to provide a concise summary of a strategic analysis. Generally your strategic analysis will include an analysis of your three strategic environments, which are your

  • Internal Environment,
  • Industry Environment, and your
  • Macro Environment

In this article you will learn all about how to identify weaknesses and to help you to get started we have also provided you with a list of common weakness. We will also show you how to avoid the common mistakes that are often made when categorising weaknesses.

Now let’s start by defining the term weakness as it relates to your SWOT analysis.

Definition of a Weakness

Corporate Level Weakness Defined:A weakness is a core capability of your business where your competitor(s) have an advantage over your business, which your customers value i.e. you failed the better than your competitors test.

During your SWOT analysis you will consider a variety of weaknesses from within your business. It is important to note that these weaknesses will all be internal to your business and they are all found during your internal analysis.

The SWOT technique can also be used at divisional, departmental and team level. When completing a team level analysis, you should identify strengths and weaknesses from the eyes of your internal customers.

Understanding SWOT Weaknesses

Some Possible Weaknesses

There are two categories of weaknesses that you may identify in your business, both are equally valid and should have receive equal consideration, these two categories are

  1. Tangible Weaknesses, these describe characteristics of your business that can be precisely identified, measured or realized. (Normally you can touch them)
  2. Intangible Weaknesses, these describe characteristics of your business that can not be physically touched or physically measured (You can not touch them)

Now, that we have identified two categories of weaknesses let’s take a look at some common tangible and intangible weaknesses that maybe found in your business

Some possible tangible weaknesses that you may find in your business

  • Old or outdated plant and equipment. Old plant or equipment is generally supported by equipment reliability issues or a lack of general competitiveness.
  • Narrow product line
  • Insufficient financial resources to fund changes
  • High costs (Not high price, high costs specifically refers to the cost of brining your product or service to market)
  • Inferior technology or technology that does has not kept pace with customer or supplier preferred transaction methods.
  • Low volume or restricted in your ability to scale up

Some possible intangible weaknessesthat you may find in your business

  • Weak or unrecognizable brand
  • Weak or unrecognizable image
  • Poor relationships with your customers
  • Poor relationships with your suppliers
  • Poor relationships with your employees
  • Marketing failing to meet objectives
  • Manager inexperience
  • Low investment in research and development
  • Low industry knowledge
  • Low innovative skills

Where People often go wrong

The most frequent error we see in a SWOT analysis with the categorisation of environmental observations. This is particularly prevalent when identifying weaknesses.

It is common for weaknesses to be identified as an opportunity to resolve the weakness rather than as a weakness, and some times as a threat of the harm the weakness may cause.

For example

A weakness of poor relationship with your employee’s, could be written up as an opportunity to improve labour relations or as a threat of industrial action by militant employees. It is important to categorise it as a weakness. Why?

It is important to categorise your weaknesses correctly as later you will look to find opportunities that capitalise on your strengths as these are your greatest strategic opportunities and threats that are exacerbated by your weaknesses as these are your greatest strategic risks.

If you have worded a weakness as an opportunity there is a risk that you will not identify your strategic risks and appropriately prioritise action to mitigate these risks.

Another common issue with identifying a SWOT weakness is to allow personal preferences to come into play. For example, if you are a big fan of apple computers but the company who you work does not use them, it is not valid to claim the organisation has a weakness that they use inferior technology. It is only a weakness if the choice of technology platform is restricting your business from competing with your competitors.

And the final item is that managers are often reluctant to be open and honest about the weaknesses of the business that they are running. They see it as a failure on their part. It is best to encourage leaders to be open and transparent about the weaknesses in their business, only by be open can you ask for help.


By the virtue of its name the SWOT analysis technique is an analysis technique NOT a solution technique. It is hard to remain focused on analysis, but important to do so. A thorough analysis is the perfect foundation for making strategic decisions.

Once the SWOT analysis is complete the next stage of strategic planning is to develop alternative possible courses of action.