Business leaders are always looking for new opportunities to reduce costs or increase profits. However, these opportunities may only be discussed during strategic meetings, often by doing an analysis of Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats (aka SWOT). SWOT is a great tool for leaders to see where the business has been, where it is now, and where it could go. However, the result of SWOT falls short when some of the opportunities identified may not be immediately pursued. This can be due to management feeling they need to do further research before proceeding with an opportunity. This follow-up research can take lots of time, effort, dollars, and possibly result in lost opportunities. Instead, decide if additional research is necessary and which opportunities are immediately implementable by following the SWOT exercise with a quick Benefits and Barriers (BB) review.
To do a BB review, simply make a T-chart with each opportunity listed on the top of a separate page. Then put the words “Benefits” on the left side of the T and “Barriers” on the right. Once the chart template is ready, leaders can begin to brainstorm ideas to place into each side of the chart.
- Benefit examples: rapid influx of cash, easy to do, profit increase, already have expertise, low cost to implement, matches long-term goals/objectives, can use existing equipment, cost savings, strong market for product, easy to sell, fits into corporate values, improves customer satisfaction, etc.
- Barrier examples: costly to implement, do not have expertise, requires training, quality concerns, special equipment is necessary, expensive to implement, takes too much time, government restrictions, outside current customer base, legal issues, requires additional insurance, more space needed, etc.
Once the ideas for the chart are exhausted, leaders can easily see where benefits outweigh barriers to quickly implement some opportunities. If barriers are much larger than benefits, those opportunities may not be worth pursuing at this time. Where benefits and barriers appear equal, further research may be warranted to make a decision and determine potential for return on investment. For those opportunities that will not be immediately implemented and still look promising, the leadership can now make a plan for overcoming the barriers so that the business can reap future benefits.
An alternative method to quickly analyze each opportunity during a strategic meeting is to break the leadership team into sub-groups of three to four people. Each sub-group would be assigned two or three of the most interesting opportunities to do a BB chart for in a short period of time. Once the charts are complete, the sub-groups would re-unite into the larger leadership team to vote on which opportunities to pursue, which to research more, and which to abandon for now.
SWOT analysis is a useful tool for business leaders to determine where the business is and where they want the business to go. However, do not stop there as it can let easy opportunities slip through the cracks by trying to do too much research before starting them. Instead, use the BB chart to target the benefits and barriers of potential opportunities. This charting method allows for quick execution of those opportunities that will quickly result in immediate benefits to the business. As well as identifying which opportunities are worth the time and effort of additional research versus those that may not be as advantageous as they appear when brought before the business leaders.