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Chapter 7


Bridging the Gap

At the beginning of the day, it’s all about possibilities.
At the end of the day, it’s all about results.

The true measure of a business’s success is its ability to understand this mantra, and as a consequence, continuously meet or exceed its profitability objectives. The biggest challenges in business are neither planning nor strategy but the ability to execute and stay focused on achieving your plan.

In this section I’ll talk about execution, taking you from planning through execution to your acceleration of profitability.

I define execution as the way you achieve your objectives. It’s about getting things done and making results happen.

Companies allocate sizable resources to planning. The resulting documents are testimony to business acumen and cogent thinking. They are most often the work products of dedicated, talented management and creative consultants. But—and this is a big but—too often in corporate America, the objectives in these plans are not achieved.

Why not? Because progress is not consistently tracked or reported, shortfalls are not taken seriously, excuses and rationalization are the norm, and commitments are either not made or no one follows through with them. In short, there is a lack of accountability.

When you drill deeper, what’s really happening is that the company is stuck in one or more of the five crippling habits I addressed in chapter 2. All too often, companies return to the drawing board instead of concentrating on taking action to meet their objectives. Unless you avoid or immediately stop this wasteful cycle, you will compromise your company’s profitability.

Sometimes the problem is that leaders plan on achieving perfection, which is impossible. The unforeseen happens. Markets change. So you must plan for change and remain flexible. If you don’t plan for change, you’re liable to find your business in a declining profit cycle. When results are not continuously compared to plan, you can end up having to make big cost-cutting adjustments late in the game.

Unfortunately, the easiest number to fix is the one associated with people. Last-minute layoffs may balance the budget, but they also set companies up for disaster. The impact of layoffs on morale and stockholder confidence is profound. Ultimately it drives loss of faith in leadership and complacency and opens the door for talented people to look for new opportunities.

Most leaders know what they want. The challenge is getting the company to execute with speed and efficiency to consistently deliver the desired results.

The key is to bridge the gap between planning and results by executing effectively. We achieve objectives in that gap between vision and reality, between mapping the adventure and arriving at the destination. But before we develop the link between the plan and the results, it’s important to understand an effective plan’s essential elements.

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