Gap Analysis Using a Transition Planning Matrix

As we begin a new year, most companies find themselves trying to figure out how to transition into an uncertain future. Gap analysis can help. Wikipedia says that gap analysis answers two questions: "Where are we?" and "Where do we want to be?" And I'll add a third question: "How do we get there?" One of the tools in the QI Macros is the Transition Planning template that provides a tool and a method for answering both questions. You can find the Transition Planning Matrix under Fill-in-the-Blank-Templates, Planning Tools.

Where Are We? Where Do We Want To Be?

The Transition Planning matrix has a column to describe the current environment and one to describe the future desired environment. While it's often easy to describe the current state of affairs, it takes some thinking and lots of Post-it notes to describe the desired state.

How Do We Get There?

Then there are four key steps that describe most transitions:

  1. Simplify, Streamline and Standardize (Lean)
  2. Optimize (Six Sigma)
  3. Expand into New Domains (Innovation)
  4. Competitive Advantage (pulling ahead of the competition)

The remainder of the matrix has four main sections: Strategy, Process, Organization and Technology (SPOT) that describe the key elements of a business transition. 

Strategy

Business strategy consists of three key elements: innovation, improvement and impression. To survive and thrive, businesses need to maximize one of these elements and optimize the other two in service of the core strategy.

  • Innovation - Apple Computer
  • Improvement (Operational Efficiency) - Wal-Mart
  • Impression (Customer Satisfaction) - Nordstrom's

Process

The ability to deliver consistently is a function of process. This section of the Transition Planning Matrix covers essential business processes. 

Organization

This section covers the various aspects of the human element of the company and its transitional needs. 

Technology

This section covers necessary technology changes.

Transition Planning

Once a company knows where it is and where it needs to go, the next step is to create the steps to move all four elements of the SPOT forward, in sync, to achieve the desired future. This involves more heavy thinking, because if you try to shift the Strategy without shifting the Process, Organization and Technology to support it, it will fail. The forces of inertia will hold the old behavior in place. 

Every step forward requires the synchronized movement of all four elements. This is why new technology often sits idle waiting for the SPO to catch up. Or a process change waits on technology. Or an organization change doesn't have the desired effect. 

Once a company starts shifting all four elements toward the desired future, it's easy to sustain the movement, but getting started is often hard.

Where do you want to be?

If your company or business or department isn't where you want it to be, the Transition Planning Matrix can help organize your thinking. The plan will change as you enact it, so keep updating it as you move forward. I think Woody Allen's joke in Annie Hall about relationships holds true in business: "Abusiness, is like a shark. It has to constantly move forward or it dies. And I think what we got on our hands is a dead shark." 

Don't let your business become a dead shark. As Alan Kay said: "The best way to predict the future is to invent it." Invent your future with the Transition Planning Matrix.

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