The Results Chasm
By Doug Davidoff
I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about results recently. The vast majority of CEOs, senior executives and salespeople that I come across all seem to be doing the right things.
Yet they rarely get the results they set out to achieve. Sure, they meet their plans, their peer groups all tell them what a terrific job they are doing and, to outsiders, they look like American success stories. Yet deep down inside they know that they’re only scratching the surface.
Because these are the type of people I work with every day, I’ve found myself pondering and advising on this issue often; and I’ve isolated the issue that is preventing really good companies from becoming great.
I call it The Results Chasm™.
The Result Chasm is the gap that lies between your vision/strategy and the execution. It easily hides beneath the surface, and ingrains itself in every aspect of what you and your company do.
When confronted with challenges most executives are told they either have a strategy/vision problem or they have an execution problem. This binary approach to business diagnosis has always frustrated me. I’ve experienced, more times than I can count (and I bet you have, too), businesses that have a good strategy and good execution; yet they fail to get their desired results. This is why “strategic planning” has earned such a bad reputation.
I’ve determined The Results Chasm is “the missing link” between strategy and execution. Strategy does not plug right into execution (it’s like they have different polarities). They require, if you will, a bridge. It’s the quality and capacity of this bridge that determines just how effectively your business will perform.
Strategic plans are great because they deliver intent with such simplicity and clarity. The problem is, they are frequently oversimplified and not ready for implementation.
Think about it, when you’ve finished your strategic retreat, what do you do next? The “consulting” word is that you “operationalize” the plan. Each department takes the “strategy” and develops their implementation plan to “make it happen”. As each department and discipline in your company works on their issues, all the alignment and clarity created by the planning process begins to break down. Before you know it, you’re dealing with the same basic issues you were dealing with before the planning process.
The problem with The Results Chasm is that it’s so easy to miss and so gosh darn difficult to address properly. There are several reasons for this:
While the space allotted in this newsletter is nowhere near enough to address this issue (we are working on a white paper on this topic – please let us know if you’d like to be part of an “alpha group” that will help shape some of The Results Chasm solutions we are developing), here are three critical ideas to make sure that don’t fall into The Results Chasm:
1. Strategy is a process, not a plan or an event
If you find yourself saying, “We did our plan last year (five years ago, etc.),” it’s a clear sign you are missing The Results Chasm. When we work with clients in developing their go-to-market strategy, whether we are talking about their value proposition, their messaging statement, brand promise or execution strategy, we warn them that the planning process gets it to, at most, 60% completion, then it takes a year of execution and feedback to get it to 80%. Over the course of years, you may dial your approach to about 90%, but remember that strategy is never complete; it’s always a work in progress.
2. The key to getting through The Results Chasm is to become comfortable with trade-offs
The reason The Results Chasm is so darn frustrating is that navigating it requires you to constantly make trade-off decisions. Every time you say “yes” to something, you must say “no” to something else.
Strategy is exciting because, in its essence, it involves saying “yes” to big things. In a strategy session everything is possible. Execution, while it can be frustrating (okay, very frustrating), is simpler because it deals with the here and now. It has urgency and immediate action associated with it. Oftentimes we don’t even have time to think while we are executing (which is why strategic planning and navigating The Results Chasm are so important).
The best way to prepare for this is to create opportunity and decision filters that are steeped in your strategic intent. Then as decisions, challenges and opportunities present themselves you can use these filters to manage the process. This makes the process far simpler and more action oriented – which prevents you from getting bogged down.
3. The Results Chasm relies on feedback
The single biggest flaw I see in most strategic plans is there are no (or at least no effective) feedback systems from execution to strategy and back to execution. It’s almost as if once the strategy is “done” (which, of course, violates the first key), it’s forgotten. Business happens very quickly today. To ensure you don’t get sucked into The Results Chasm you must build effective mechanisms to constantly get, and apply, feedback.
I’ll be writing more about The Results Chasm in the coming months (remember to let us know if you’d like to participate in the alpha group), and I’m interested in your feedback. How does The Results Chasm affect your business? How do you navigate and manage it? What are your biggest Chasm challenges?