Analyzing Forces: The Threats to Strategic Dominance

Blog - Analyzing Forces - Threats to Your Strategic Plan_10800050_XSMany, many monosyllabic words fly under the radar quite easily and are simply missed, mostly without much consequence. Some monosyllabic words, like food, sleep, hug, kiss, deal or free rarely avoid detection. If you are serious about strategic dominance, a word you must pay attention to is threat.

A threat is simply an indication or warning of probable trouble.1 Though understanding the concept is relatively simple, identifying threats can be more complicated. Threat identification is imperative if you desire to develop a full-fledged, fully-functioning strategic plan. The process of identifying threats is called force analysis.2 When analyzing forces, the two directions you need to look are internal and external.

Internal Analysis

Strategic dominance is not concerned with threat identification only. The beauty being strategic is that you also have an opportunity to identify strengths — both your own and other advantages that are outside of you. You also have an opportunity to identify your weaknesses. Do not despair. Identifying your weaknesses can help you avoid uncomfortable situations.

Strengths

People who live strategically have a really good idea of where their strengths and weaknesses are, and they work to minimize or neutralize their weaknesses while they capitalize on their strengths. Strength and weakness identification can go a long way towards helping you determine which targets are close and which ones are too far away, for now. Increasing strengths, turning weaknesses into strengths, and minimizing the effects of the rest of your weaknesses as much as possible will serve to bring more and more targets within range, thereby creating more long- and short-term targets for your strategic plan.

Strengths can be subdivided into two categories:

  1. Soft resources
  2. Hard resources

Soft resources include innate talents, knowledge, natural skill, energy, confidence, and ideas. Hard resources include time, money, equipment, tools, technology, and materials. Hard resources are often easier to identify than soft resources because they are actually tangible. Ask others to help you identify your soft resources if you have a difficult time doing so on your own. Once you make it through the exercise of discovering your resources, you may find that you are more confident in your ability to reach your target(s). With your strengths in mind, you may discover that you are heading in the correct direction.

Weaknesses

Do not run away from your weaknesses. Instead, identify them, own up to them, and use that honesty to help you identify situations that will expose your weaknesses. You do not necessarily want to avoid growth situations, but you want to make sure those situations allow you to have a home court advantage.

As with strengths, you need to make a list of all of your weaknesses, both the soft and the hard. This will give you an honest assessment of your limitations and liabilities. When you are finished, take a good look at the list and ask yourself two very important questions: “Which gaps of limitations will fundamentally expose me to intolerable risks before I embark on my journey?” and “Which weaknesses are mildly critical, and which are insignificant?” Whittle the list down to those weaknesses that are the most critical.

Take a good look at those critical weaknesses. How can you manage or neutralize those weaknesses? Before moving forward, you need to understand how you can manage and maneuver your way around these critical weaknesses. There are five things you can do to help you manage your weaknesses effectively:

  1. Don’t move in the direction of a significant weakness.
  2. Ask for help in the area of a weakness if you must go that direction.
  3. Look for a technological solution to a weakness.
  4. Use a different path or approach to bypass a weakness.
  5. Consider waiting until you are stronger or better equipped if a weakness is significant and a strength does not provide an immediate solution.

External Analysis

Threats

It is very wise to always have your radar constantly looking around you gathering data to help recognize threats and tailwinds. You need to gain the ability to determine if an event or condition poses a legitimate threat. It is possible to chase after gremlins that are benign in the end only to find out that you have neglected chasing after the one gremlin that could cause real harm. You must get really good at determining which gremlins to chase after and which ones to ignore. You do this by looking at the data your radar gathers. Read the data. Understand the data. Use the data to help you make wise, informed decisions.

Some legitimate threats will come and go without effect. Others will come and have a small impact on your strategic plan. Threats can be minimized when you act correctly and make specific, strategic investments. There will be those threats that are potentially devastating no matter how prepared you are when they pass through. Do your best to minimize the effects threats have to your strategic dominance by:

  1. Identifying them
  2. Ranking them on a scale of 1 to 10 (1 = no big deal; 10 = devastating)
  3. Assessing the probability of occurrence

When you understand what you are up against, it is easier to prepare. Your preparations may even work to circumvent the problem, thus eliminating the threat altogether.

Tailwinds

Not all conditions outside of your control are bad. On the contrary, some external conditions may be downright beneficial to you and your efforts. Identify these conditions as well. You may be able to find a way to take advantage of these conditions on a regular basis to help move your efforts towards your end goal more quickly.

Other advantages may not be so obvious. Francis Bacon said, “A wise man [or woman] will make more opportunities than he [or she] finds.” Don’t be afraid to manufacture advantages for yourself. Some advantages may not even exist when you begin working on your strategic plan. This is another reason to keep an eye towards your data-gathering radar. Something may pop up that will help you down the path to success.

Use the space below to help you begin your force analysis. Answer the questions specifically and thoughtfully. Use the answers to move your strategic plan forward.

Analyze Forces: A Methodology

Use the following 6-step process to help you analyze the forces or variables in your life that will act as potential strengths, limitations, advantages, or vulnerabilities as you seek strategic dominance.

  1. Identify up to six primary forces, variables, or factors within your control that are likely to have positive influence on and help drive your success towards your strategic target.

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  1. Identify up to six primary forces, variables, or factors within your control that are likely to have a negative impact on your target and keep you from maximizing your success.

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  1. Identify up to six primary forces, variables, or factors that are external, or not within your control, that are likely to obstruct progress towards your target strategy.

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  1. Identify up to six primary forces, variables, or factors that are external, or not within your control, that will create positive traction while moving toward your strategic target.

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  1. Underline the critical few forces from items 1 to 4 that will help you launch or sustain momentum on your journey.
  2. Circle the critical few forces from items 1 to 4 that could be life-threatening obstacles.

1Threat. Dictionary.com. The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer. Houghton Mifflin Company. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/threat (accessed: January 06, 2012).

2Stowell, Steven, and Stephanie Mead. Ahead of the Curve. Sandy: CMOE Press, 2005.

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About the Author

Josh Nuttall

Josh’s role and experience at CMOE has been supporting the development of curriculum design for a wide variety of leadership topics and organizational issues and challenges.