“To know what you know and what you do not know, that is true knowledge.”
If you have ever traveled the Underground in London, you will have seen signs and announcements to “mind the gap.” Some platforms on the London Underground are curved and the railroad cars that use the platforms are straight, thus a gap is created when a train stops at a curved platform. “Mind the Gap” warns passengers of the risk of sustaining injury by stepping into the gap.
If you did not mind the gap and your foot fell into it, a few things come into play here. First, you weren’t listening to the announcement. Second, you didn’t see all the signs throughout the station which read, “Mind the gap!” Third, you didn’t watch where you were going. Perhaps your mind was on other things and not on watching your feet and where they landed. Fourth, you obviously weren’t paying attention to your surroundings, or you would have noticed other people minding the gap. Fifth, you weren’t thinking of the here and now, but more on where you were going or where you had to be. Sixth, you never thought you would fall in the gap.
While I was riding the Underground and thinking about the reasons why someone would potentially fall into the gap, I started thinking about the many business owners and CEOs I’ve been working with and how easily they fall into the gap regarding some of their business decisions and their personnel. Business owners and CEOs fall into gaps for many of the same reasons mentioned above.
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Not Listening – Many business owners, CEOs, and Executive Managers hear, but they don’t necessary listen. They hear warning signs from their employees pertaining to customer dissatisfaction, employee dissatisfaction, process problems, etc., but they do little about it. There are many reasons for not listening. Some are financial. The cost to fix the problem is more important than the projected results. Some are ego-related. Admitting that perhaps the problem is because of something they did or did not do is hard to accept. Some are time-related. The amount of time and effort it will take to fix the problem is deemed too great. Some are because of non-acceptance that a problem really exists, so it is ignored in the hope that it will go away or correct itself. Whatever the reason, the gap is not minded and an injury will occur.
Ignoring the Signs – Many business owners, CEOs, and Executive Managers either don’t see the signs of potential problems and issues, or they simply ignore them. Too many companies have no metrics in place nor a balanced scorecard to measure the health of their business. So, small problems become big problems and little issues become major issues. Even worse are those companies that actually have metrics in place but choose to ignore them. The time to fix the problem is when it is in its infancy, not after it has become major. When its small, it is manageable and probably only affects a small number of people and processes. When it becomes major, it affects more people and more processes and is thus more difficult and expensive to remedy. Ignoring the signs will result in falling into the gap.
Not watching where you’re going – Many business owners, CEOs, and Executive Managers are so involved “in” the business that they don’t have time to work “on” the business. Not only don’t they know where they’re going, but they don’t know how to get there. This is a common problem, especially for small business owners who can’t seem to get past the day-to-day problems and the day-to-day operations of their businesses. A business can only survive for so long without a long-term plan with a timeline and milestones and the right people to execute the plan. Falling into this gap could cost you your business.
Not paying attention to your surroundings – Many business owners, CEOs, and Executive Managers concentrate on certain aspects of their businesses and ignore the rest. This results in glaring symptoms of potential problems going unnoticed until they become big problems. It’s not important for the leadership team to be in all places at the same time, but it is important to put the right people, processes, and metrics in place and to pay attention to those employees in the trenches who are the first line of communication to the customer and are deeply involved with the day-to-day operations of the company.
Not thinking of the here and now – Many business owners, CEOs, and Executive Managers concentrate so much on where they want to be that they ignore where they are. As a company grows, the processes, procedures, people, and systems must grow with it. Too many companies rely on outdated functions that worked when the company was in its infancy, but simply cannot work now. Considering where you are now and what needs to be done in order to improve, enhance, and change will help you get to where you want to be with less pain, effort, and cost then if you simply charge ahead. You can’t get to the other side of the gap if you don’t plan from whence you come.
Thinking it can’t happen to you – Many business owners, CEOs, and Executive Managers think that they and their companies are so solid that they simply don’t feel they need to mind the gap. A growing company can fall into this false sense of security when everything seems to be going right for them. Not taking into account the changing environment, changing customers, changing competitive landscape, changing technological breakthroughs, changing laws, changing financial challenges, changing political climate can lead to them falling into a major gap that they may not be able to recover from.[/message][su_spacer]
Mind the Gap – good advice from those who run London’s public underground railway system and for business owners, CEOs and Executive Managers. Perhaps along with vision and mission statements and strategic goals, all companies should place “Mind the Gap” signs throughout the company as a constant reminder to all employees the importance and pitfalls of not minding the gap.