How To Address A Weakness

In this evening’s discussion in our weekly Tampa IIBA certification study group we touched on the subject of dealing with weaknesses. This initially grew out of a discussion about SWOT analyses. Based on things I’ve read and my proclivity to try to look at problems from as many angles as possible, I am aware of two main approaches.

The obvious one is to make the weakness less weak. There are numerous ways to do this, depending on the nature of the weakness. One is to learn more or otherwise develop or add to the skill or capability that is lacking. This can involve bringing in new people (from within and from outside your organization), obtaining information (in books and papers and online), training in new tools or technologies (via courses, videos, and friends), and many other methods.

The other, and less intuitive, approach is to enhance your strengths so that the weakness matters less. If you or your organization is so good at something that provides a significant competitive advantage, then it may be wisest to concentrate on maintaining or improving that strength.

In general, it’s best to take the approach — or combination of approaches — that provides the highest marginal benefit. That is, go with the solution that gives the greatest bang for the buck.

Think of a football team. (We’re talking American Football here, not what us crazy Americans call soccer that the rest of the world calls football!). Every team gets to put eleven players on the field on defense at one time. Assuming the level of overall talent among teams is roughly equal, we might observe that some teams, because they have better players at certain positions or better coaching or better or different schemes, will be stronger at some facets of defense and weaker in others, while other teams are stronger or weaker in different areas.

For example, one team may have a very strong defensive line that is reasonably able to stop opposing teams’ rushing attack, but can really put a lot of pressure on the quarterback. A different team may have a less proficient defensive line but a much stronger secondary. If the first team’s defensive line can pressure the opposing quarterback enough, it may not matter that its secondary cannot cover the receivers as well, because the quarterback won’t be able to get the ball to them, anyway. If the second team’s secondary is very strong and is able to blanket the opposing receivers, it may not matter if its defensive line is weaker, because even if the quarterback has more time to throw, the receivers will never be open to throw to.

There are other ways to cover for a weak aspect of a defense. One is to improve the offense so the defense is on the field less or otherwise does not have to be as effective. Another is to modify the stadium and motivate the crowd so opposing offenses have to play in a louder environment, which should reduce their effectiveness. The number of factors that can be considered in this kind of analysis is nearly infinite, so in order to keep things simple, we’re only going to consider the problem from the two dimensions of a defense’s line vs. its secondary.

Looking at the first case of a defense with a strong line and a weaker secondary (the weakness we intend to discuss), we can see that we can either improve the secondary (the obvious approach), or (less obviously) we can maintain or improve the defensive line even more. Remember that resources are limited (the number of players on a team and the number on the field at any one time are fixed, there is a salary cap, there are recruiting restrictions, and so on) and the solution must be optimized within defined constraints. Not all problems are constrained in this exact way, but there are no problems which are not constrained in some way. It’s always a question of making the best use of the resources you have. The approach you take should be based on what works best for the current situation.

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