Bridging the gap? What gap?

By: Jordi Alemany – Management Consulting

Bridging the gap” between strategy and execution has become a very popular phrase these days. Half of the world – consultants – is trying to help the other half bridge the gap!

“Bridging the gap? Why there is a gap is the question you should try to address.

The question becomes:

  • Did you know there was a gap by the time you designed your strategy?

If you think carefully about it, having to bridge a gap between the strategy designed by the executive team and the business capability to implement the plan, is a clear sign of two things:

  1. Poor knowledge management.
  2. Broken or inexistent communication between the different layers in the organization.

The problem is that too often, the communication channels are broken or simply don’t exist between executives and mid-management teams. This is where the real gap exists and the question we should try to address before we hire an external consultant to tell us how to “Bridge the gap”.

Successful strategy execution requires two things:

  • Fluid, two-way communication between executives and mid-management, top to bottom and viceversa.
  • Knowledge management: Capture and share valuable information from all available sources regarding current business capability.

Wisdom is knowledge in action

Communication between executives and mid-management should never occur in the form of a one-off broadcast or annual conference, where Executives tell the rest of the organization “This is the plan we came up with, now go make it happen”.

Effective communication should happen more often in the form of a recurrent, replicable and measurable process, intrinsic to the company Culture and embraced by everyone, everyday – supported by the executive team and instilled in every employee from the very minute they join the organization.

So let me ask you a simple question: If you were aware of the gap between your thoughts and what your organization can truly achieve, would you have designed the same plan?

The obvious answer is no, but the problem is that communication errors and gaps in business acumen tend to be reviewed only when failure occurs, and then we call it lessons learnt!

Effective Communication + Knowledge Management = No GAP!

So we would agree that having to “Bridge the gap between strategy planning and execution” is indeed a clear sign of poor knowledge management and lack or broken communications. Ultimately it is a sign of poor planning in itself.

Effective strategy planning requires effective communications and business acumen both at executive and mid-management level and communication must occur before, during and after, not just once the strategy has been planned.

The communication and understanding by the senior executives of business constrains and lack of capabilities, should always occur before the planning phase. That´s how you avoid – or make it minimal – the gap, instead of having to bridge it up later.

Effective communication and knowledge management top to bottom – Executive tips:

  • Understand current business capabilities Vs Customer demand. Requires detail capturing and understanding of current issues across key functions. What is the true business capability? Ask your mid-management about it and listen up to them.
  • Identify resourcing needs beforehand. Ask mid-management what they need to convert your ideas into reality. Can we free up resources or we need to bring in additional resource? This is something we should think about well ahead.
  • Share your thoughts with mid-managers and senior professionals. Adjust your portfolio of ideas to the current reality. Take other’s ideas on board. At the end of the day, they spend more time with the Customers than any executive does.

Effective communication and knowledge management bottom to top – Mid-Management tips:

  • Flag up (KEY) recurrent issues. Bring up (KEY) issues impacting (KEY) Customers to the executive team. Capture (ONLY RELEVANT) data explaining the root cause behind recurrent issues. Forget about small issues or those that only happen once a year, focus on what truly needs to be fixed.
  • Document process errors and financial impact. Always measure tangible financial impact. Current cost and potential savings. Executives always look at the monetary impact of things. Talk big moneys and you will get their attention and their feedback on what business issues really matter to them.
  • Analyze the impact in terms of resources consumed today versus resources that could be freed up and dedicated to the achievement of future strategic goals. If you want to get the executives buy-in, focus on being more effective in the use of existing resource, instead of asking for incremental heads.
  • Present and implement solutions, not problems. Concentrate on those issues driving most of the inefficient cost. Don´t try to fix every single problem. Focus on quick wins. Talk solutions, not problems.

Improving communication and sharing knowledge between executives and the mid-management teams will dramatically increase your chances to succeed and most importantly, if you do it right, there will be no gap between what you planned to achieve and what you can achieve.

Effective communication and knowledge sharing will help you engage employees along the way.

According to the Corporate Leadership Council, employees with lower engagement levels are four times more likely to leave their jobs than those who are highly engaged. But the importance of employee engagement isn’t just increased employee retention; it’s also about higher productivity.

An engaged employee will make your Customers happy and happy Customers will lead to increased profitability.

Thus, make your mid-management and professional teams feel part of the long-term intent of the organization at early stages of your strategy planning, and you will dramatically increase employee engagement levels. Put it into practice, you won´t regret it!

Jordi Alemany