Paul Raggio | Closing the capability gap

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It was a fantastic feat, and I remember the country’s astonishment when Jim Ryan, a high school junior in Wichita, Kansas, ran a sub-4-minute mile! The year was 1964, and Ryan clocked a time of 3:59. Then, in 1965 Ryan bested his time and ran a 3:55.3 mile, at the Amateur Athletic Union Championship Track and Field Meet, a record that held for 36 years. 

ESPN named him the best high school athlete of all time, and in the 1968 Summer Olympics, Ryan won the silver medal in the 1,500-meter run. He was thrilling to watch, and you just knew he was at his peak. Of course, super athletes come in all ages, sizes, ethnicities, races, and genders and perform record-breaking acts in all sports. Two things they have in common are they push themselves to their absolute performance limit, and they strive continuously to close their capability gap. 

A capability gap is the difference between performing optimally and then anything less. Super athletes close their capability gaps by focusing on improving several areas: mental acuity, emotional stability, physical endurance, skills mastery, healthy eating and restorative sleep. They don’t do this by themselves. Every super athlete has a coach, and many have more than one. Coaches understand how to close their athlete’s capability gap, pushing them to their limit, ultimately optimizing and peaking their performance at the right time and location.  

Stories abound about super athletes rigidly sticking to their coach’s specialized and unique training regimens, with one thing in mind: how can they shave off one more second in the race, gain one more yard on the gridiron, swish one more 3-pointer on the court, turn one more gate on the slalom, drive one more yard on the fairway, pitch one more 105-mph fastball. They readily understand that if they can optimize every part of their being from mind and emotion, body physics and mechanics, skills and knowledge, endurance and resilience, they will close their capability gap and achieve astounding results just like Jim Ryan did in 1964 when he broke the 4-minute-mile barrier! 

Business gaps, too

Capability gaps exist in businesses, too! Companies not operating at peak performance find that profits suffer, customers become elusive, and top-quality staff bail.  Businesses perform sub-optimally because they are under-executing in one of several areas. Similar to what super athletes do, find a business coach who will establish a personalized regimen that assures growth and increases profit. Then, systemize your business by mastering these nine steps that address distinct areas that often perform sub-optimally.  

First, set your vision. Give your company direction by clearly stating where you’re heading. Your vision is futuristic, inspirational and aspirational. It’s the soul of your business, and you, your team, and your customers will remember it. 

Second, set your mission. Your mission clarifies the who, what, when, where, why, and how of your business. It stands on its own and defines how you intend to achieve your vision. 

Third, develop a dynamite culture by publishing your company values. Start by asking what are your team and your customers’ values? Then, what values do you need to achieve your vision and mission? Document and publish these values for all to see to include employees, customers, stakeholders, prospects and your community.  

Fourth, create quarterly and annual action plans that contain goals to complete your mission. Test each goal to ensure it is specific, measurable, attainable, results-oriented, time-framed, encouraging and rewarding. 

Fifth, map your organization to be the most efficient, effective and productive enterprise. Ensure there is unity of command; clear lines of authority, responsibility and communication; a manageable span of control; and the right people in the right seats, on the right bus, headed in the right direction. 

Sixth, revitalize those job descriptions and make them signed position commitments. Have one for every position in the organization and articulate why the job exists. List the key activities, processes and outcomes the role is accountable for. Delineate its line of authority, responsibility and expectations. Ultimately you want your employees committed to a specific level of performance in the company, thus the requirement for a signed position commitment statement.  

Seventh, embrace the use of key performance indicators. They help leaders understand how well the business is doing and are vital decision support tools. They should answer the most critical business questions on the health of the company. 

Eighth, create standard operating procedures. In most businesses, 80% of the activity is repeatable and transactional. Solve quality, efficiency and effectiveness issues by developing systems. Document the repeatable actions, assign a process owner and include the procedures each job is responsible for in the position commitment statement. 

Ninth, develop management systems that oversee the entirety of the business and focus on closing the capability gap. 

Narrow your company’s gap

Optimum productivity, peak performance, outstanding people, exceptional value and raving customer fans narrow your company’s capability gap. Think like the super athletes do and find a business coach who will establish a personalized regimen that assures growth and increases profit. Then work on systemizing your company by mastering these nine steps that address distinct areas that often perform sub-optimally. By doing this, you become a commercial, profitable enterprise that works without you, the ActionCOACH definition of success!  

Paul A. Raggio is co-owner, with his sister Lisa, of One True North INC Leadership and Business Coaching Solutions.

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