Sparks from a sparkler

Mind the Gap: A Performance-Tuning Paradigm

The subterranean rapid transit rail system that serves greater London—aka “the Underground” or “the Tube”—has a design problem. When straight rail cars stop at curved passenger platforms, they create a gap and a life-threatening hazard. In 1969, the simple phrase “Mind the gap” was coined. It was designed for use in short broadcasts when the rail car doors opened and closed. Simple and effective signage was placed throughout the station and in train cars to amplify the effect.

Gaps Happen

Life is full of gaps, due to inadequate design, unforeseen consequences, or human and financial shortfalls. However, discovering gaps is not always straightforward. Organizations that are narrowly focused on high profile benchmarks and performance measures can be easily distracted from recognizing small gaps that add up to sizable performance drains.

In today’s private equity–influenced business culture, finely tuned operational performance has become a business necessity. One challenge with these extreme high-performance operational models is that often full-time staffing plans are thrifty and budget expectations require existing resources to do much more. Somewhere along the way, frugality probably left an opening. It’s important to know where that gap is—and if it’s disrupting your operations.

Acknowledge the Gap

Observing current state performance is known as Gap Analysis, but this tool is often overlooked. Recognizing and setting benchmarks then testing against them reveals gaps. Regularly resetting benchmarks and re-testing will fine-tune performance.

Take, for example, a situation in which a marketing team is reporting increased traffic to product and services pages, but the sales team is not seeing more leads. The gap there is probably a faulty or absent call-to-action strategy. Once that’s identified, a solution to fill that gap needs to be implemented then retested to see if leads increase. Multivariate or A/B testing might be needed to determine the effectiveness of content, including text and imagery. If you are repeatedly responding to requests to provide particular information, then there is probably a gap in your content or consumer experience strategy.

Fill the Gap

You also may have a talent gap. While you may not be able to permanently hire an information architect, a digital experience manager, or a content strategist, you could augment your team on a project basis.

Sometimes the gap can be filled with training. Your human talent may need to take on additional skills (HTML5, CSS3) and responsibility (time and effort) as a part of their jobs. If you need a more permanent or long-term solution, bringing in a specialist whose expertise is finely tuned to the area of need can effectively fill the gap. This model in the long run can be more economical, yielding a higher quality and enduring result.

You may even need to source talent from across the globe, with a wide array of specialties. Identifying exceptional resources whose expertise can be brought into a solution quickly often requires a staffing partner.

No matter the cause, identifying and recognizing a gap is an initial step in fine-tuning organizational performance – like the London Underground did with a simple voice recording and signage.

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