“Action is the foundational key to all success.” — Pablo Picasso
Over the years, I’ve learned a lot about overcoming the Execution Gap through my own experiences leading teams and executing projects.
While the Execution Gap is often discussed in terms of organizations, I want to focus on the individual and team level, where self-awareness and understanding can make all the difference.
We all face the Execution Gap at some point in our lives, whether it’s in our personal or professional endeavors. It’s the gap between having a great idea and actually putting it into action. It’s easy to get overwhelmed when faced with a list of goals, but with the right tools and mindset, we can close the gap and turn our aspirations into reality.
In this article, I’ll share my insights on how to tackle the Execution Gap head-on and make our dreams a reality.
What is the Execution Gap
The Execution Gap refers to the disparity between having a good idea or plan and actually putting it into action. It’s a phenomenon where smart and talented individuals struggle to translate their ideas into tangible results.
This gap can be due to a variety of factors, such as lack of motivation, poor time management skills, procrastination, or an inability to prioritize and focus on what is important.
Addressing the execution gap requires a combination of self-awareness, strategy development, and practical skills to help turn ideas into action. This can include setting clear goals, breaking down projects into smaller tasks, using productivity tools, and developing better time management habits.
Why Even Smart People Can Struggle with Execution
There can be several reasons why even smart people struggle with execution:
- Overthinking: Sometimes smart people have a tendency to overthink, analyze and perfect every detail, causing them to get stuck in the planning stage and never move forward with execution.
- Perfectionism: High standards and a desire for perfection can cause smart people to get bogged down in the details, leading to procrastination and lack of progress.
- Fear of failure: Fear of making mistakes or not succeeding can lead smart people to avoid taking action, even when they have a solid plan in place.
- Distractions and multitasking: Smart people often have multiple interests and projects, leading them to easily get distracted and struggle to stay focused on a single task.
- Lack of prioritization: With so many ideas and possibilities, smart people can struggle to prioritize and focus their efforts on what is most important.
- Resistance to change: Smart people may become attached to their ideas and approaches, and resist change, even when it is necessary for successful execution.
It’s important to recognize these obstacles and work to overcome them in order to turn ideas into successful execution. This may involve setting realistic goals, prioritizing tasks, breaking down larger projects into smaller, more manageable steps, and being open to feedback and course correction.
Why Address the Execution Gap?
Addressing the Execution Gap is important because it helps ensure that plans and projects are successfully executed and completed. The Execution Gap refers to the discrepancy between the planning and actual execution of a task or project, and it can have serious consequences if not addressed.
Some of the reasons why addressing the execution gap is important include:
- Increases efficiency and productivity – by ensuring that plans are executed as intended, teams can save time and resources that might otherwise be wasted.
- Improves quality – by completing projects to a high standard, teams can deliver a better-quality product or service, which can enhance reputation and increase customer satisfaction.
- Achieves goals – by addressing the execution gap, teams can ensure that their goals are met and that their efforts are not wasted.
- Increases motivation and morale – when projects are completed successfully, it can boost team morale and motivation, and help to create a positive work environment.
- Enhances reputation – completing projects on time and to a high standard can help to enhance a team’s reputation and attract new business opportunities.
Addressing the Execution Gap is important because it helps to ensure that projects are completed efficiently, to a high standard, and with a positive impact on the team and the organization.
Addressing the Execution Gap
To address the execution gap, here are some of the best tips:
- Pair starters with finishers – this can help ensure that projects are not only started but also completed to a high standard. Starters bring the initial inspiration and drive, while finishers provide the focus and discipline needed to complete the project.
- Set clear and specific goals – having a clear understanding of what is expected and what needs to be accomplished can help to keep everyone focused and motivated.
- Break tasks into smaller, manageable steps – this makes it easier to track progress and avoid getting overwhelmed.
- Foster a culture of accountability – this can help ensure that everyone is responsible for their part in the project and is motivated to complete their tasks.
- Regularly review and adjust plans – as circumstances change, plans may need to be adjusted to ensure the project remains on track.
- Stay focused on the end goal – keep the end goal in mind and regularly remind team members of what needs to be accomplished.
- Use technology to help track progress – tools such as project management software can help keep everyone on track and monitor progress.
By implementing these tips, teams can close the execution gap and bring their plans to successful completion.
Starters and Finishers
I wrote about Starters and Finishers long ago in Unlock Your Potential: Discovering Your Productivity Personality.
Starters and Finishers are two common productivity personas that describe people’s tendencies in regard to getting things done.
- Starters: Starters are individuals who are full of energy and enthusiasm at the beginning of a project or task. They enjoy the initial stages of brainstorming and planning, but they struggle with follow-through and completing tasks. They may start many projects at once but have trouble seeing them through to the end.
- Finishers: Finishers, on the other hand, are individuals who have a strong focus on completing tasks and reaching the end goal. They excel at following through on tasks and bringing projects to completion, but they may struggle with the initial stages of starting a task. They may find it challenging to generate new ideas or to see the bigger picture.
Both Starters and Finishers can struggle with execution in different ways. Starters may struggle with staying focused and motivated to complete a task, while Finishers may struggle with generating new ideas and taking risks. Understanding your own tendencies as a Starter or Finisher can help you overcome these challenges and improve your overall productivity.
Pair Up for Better Execution
One way to address the execution gap is by pairing starters and finishers together. Starters are individuals who are good at coming up with ideas and starting projects but may struggle with completing them. Finishers, on the other hand, are individuals who are focused on completing tasks and ensuring they are done to a high standard.
By pairing Starters and Finishers, the strengths of each individual can complement each other and help to close the execution gap. The Starter provides the initial inspiration and drive, while the Finisher provides the focus and discipline needed to bring the project to completion. This collaboration can help ensure that projects are not only started but also finished to a high standard.
It’s important to note that both Starters and Finishers have valuable skills and should be utilized in different ways. A team that is made up of only Starters may lack focus and direction, while a team of only Finishers may lack creativity and new ideas.
By pairing Starters and Finishers, you can form a well-rounded team that has the ability to both conceive and execute ideas more effectively.
Doers vs. Describers
In his book Tactics: The Art and Science of Success, Edward de Bono sheds light on the two distinct types of people in the world – describers and doers. As Sir Ove Arup puts it, “The natural thinker strives for perfection, while the natural doer acts quickly, relying on intuition and getting the most done.”
Doers and describers are two distinct types of people who approach productivity and task execution in different ways.
- Doers are action-oriented individuals who prefer to get things done quickly and efficiently. They are focused on results and have a strong drive to complete tasks. However, they can struggle with execution because they may not take the time to fully plan out their actions, leading to mistakes or missed opportunities.
- Describers, on the other hand, are more analytical and detail oriented. They prefer to thoroughly plan out their actions and consider all possible scenarios before moving forward. While this approach helps them avoid mistakes, it can also lead to analysis paralysis and prevent them from taking action altogether.
In both cases, the key to overcoming these challenges is to find a balance between planning and execution. Doers need to take the time to think things through, while describers need to take action and not get bogged down in analysis.
Operacy: The Art of Balancing Thought and Action
Contrary to popular belief, thought is not the enemy of action. De Bono disagrees with the notion that some people are just oriented towards thinking while others are all about taking action.
He coined a new word to encompass the thinking involved in getting things done:
According to de Bono, the key to success lies in finding the right balance between thought and action. Action informs thinking and vice versa. You can’t expect to plan everything in advance, but you also can’t just go with your gut without any consideration. It’s a continuous synergy that requires you to bring both elements into play.
Both describers and doers use thinking in their own way. While describers may take their time to think things through and avoid mistakes, doers use action to get feedback and test their results. De Bono stresses that it’s dangerous to pretend that doers don’t need or use thinking, as both groups rely on it in different ways.
From Dreamer to Achiever
Addressing the execution gap is crucial for achieving success in any venture or project. The gap between having a great idea and actually executing it is a common challenge faced by individuals, teams, and organizations alike.
By understanding the difference between describers and doers and pairing them up, we can bridge the execution gap and turn our ideas into reality. It is also important to have a clear understanding of our motivations and to set achievable goals to keep us on track.
By embracing a continuous synergy between thought and action and being willing to adapt and make adjustments along the way, we can overcome obstacles and achieve success. Ultimately, addressing the execution gap requires a combination of effective planning, action-oriented thinking, and a healthy dose of motivation to drive us forward.
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