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Got gaps? 10 timely tips for closing them

While I was having lunch with some business associates in a nice restaurant, explaining to them how I have added value to companies by helping them close their business gaps, I could see the busboy coming our way with his tray loaded with dirty dishes and glasses. I guessed he had made that trip many times before and knew what he was doing, so I barely paid any attention until...

Before I tell you the rest of the story, I need to tell you about what I was saying to these fellows, to put the story into context.

Why close business gaps?

First, businesses' gaps are closed to capitalize on opportunities or to resolve issues. We close business gaps to improve top-line, bottom-line, qualitative or compliance performance. These gaps translate to shareholder value, and the inability to close them can frustrate the business executives as well as their customers, employees and shareholders.

10 Tips for Closing Gaps

So what should you consider when you want to close gaps in your organization?

1. Clarify the current situations and root causes of any lack of performance, as well as adding clarity to your desired state.
2. Obtain insight to the gap from multiple perspectives (clarifying the whole elephant). In doing so, you and your people have a line of sight to what needs to be done and why.
3. Establish the Return on Investment of closing your gaps.
4. Determine the barriers and actions required to close your gaps (if you don't know them, you can't plan for them and they'll affect you eventually).

(We'll get back to our busboy soon...)

5. Prioritize the most critical activities that map to their goals.
6. Design and plan the gap-closing activities, then scope, sequence, and staff them.
7. Implement the steps needed to close the gaps and, especially when the business lacks a good track record, hold people accountable and coaching, recognizing and reinforcing desired behavior.
8. Obtain the benefits of the transitions as you had envisioned them - the productivity, profitability, and/or customer-related objectives you had when you authorized the efforts.
9. Sustain the results by ensuring that the people who must change accept, adopt, and sustain the required behaviors through change leadership and change management. Equally important is instilling a sustainable behavior where people are held accountable without outside help, over time.
10. After you have closed the gap, take the time to do a lessons-learned. What worked well, and what could you improve the next time you close a gap?

In nearly 20 years of gap-closing consulting, my clients have seen things they could not see before (or at least have added clarity to their gaps), and have been able plan and implement activities, such as strategies, process improvements, etc., that had enabled them to reach their destinations.

Back to our busboy

... so, the busboy was headed for a little wall behind our booth, and I could see that his "tray was full," not unlike many of the clients I have worked with. I could see the barrier ahead of him, and what happened next happened so fast that I could not prevent it, and you probably know what that is.

What was so weird was that I had just finished saying "My clients have seen things they could not see before (or at least have added clarity to their gaps), and have been able plan and implement activities, such as strategies, process improvements, etc., that had enabled them to reach their destinations," when one of my business associates got an ice water shower.

Maybe you can relate to this somehow... Got gaps?
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Bob Dodge

Bob Dodge is senior partner of The Alternative Board - Denver West. He helps organizations improve customer loyalty and employee engagement, coaches leaders in leading changes, consults with organizations to manage changes and is a popular speaker and writer. He can be contacted at 303-550-0101 or bdodge@TABDenverwest.com. His website is www.TABDenverwest.com  




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