Dear CMO:
You need to begin a dialog with key stakeholders in a complex market, full of misunderstandings and competitors. You need to start a blog with multiple authors, clearly articulated roles for each writer, and enough discipline to ensure that solid content gets published early and often.
The problem is, everyone agrees and no one does it. The blog is launched and quickly gathers cobwebs.
You empower your channel marketing organization to curb sales entitlements, bringing facts and not feelings to the incremental lift you get out of channel investments. Your channel people know how to do it, attack it with energy, and have the facts to make the case stick.
The problem is, you’ve also decided to decentralize your divisions and give them enough autonomy to cut separate deals with your channel partners, effectively putting two cars in the parking lot. Not to mention, frustrate your channel marketing team’s best efforts.
You correctly identify the Achilles Heel of your competition, taking advantage of their disintegrating channel relationships and their depleted field sales organization while promoting the strength of your own capabilities in the field. You launch a campaign aimed at face-to-face evangelism to C-level officers, driving mindshare and thought leadership — plus actual feet on the street execution: something your competitors can’t match.
The problem is, your field sales people are scared to death of calling on anyone with a title more senior than Junior Procurement Specialist. The thought of speaking directly, while making eye contact, with a C-level officer in a client location makes them weak in the knees.
Your paradigm-shifting SEM concept promises to change the face of how customers acquire qualified, branded leads, so your plan on orchestrating a thought-leadership forum with top-to-top communication with marketing leaders across multiple industries makes game-changing sense.
The problem is, your operational people are all in India and you’re having one hell of a time managing even the simplest customer engagements. Let alone problems. Like when you over-bill a client 300% without telling them, all while failing to deliver what you promise.
You collect gigabytes of web sale data and create a zip code level demographic & psychographic analysis, showing where your best potential customers — and retailers — are located, down to a neighborhood level. You put a sales campaign together to put this learning to work, providing incentives and tools to ensure each and every step along the path is successful.
The problem is, the team just… isn’t… ready… to do anything more complex than what they planned on doing today anyway. And it drags… on… for… months…
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Key Takeaways:
> There are no strategic problems, only people problems. Each and every one of the above vignettes illustrates a situation where the pieces are in place and the job still doesn’t get done. None, with the exception of the SEM example, are structural problems — these are primarily cultural ones.
> There is no strategy where there is no execution. A brilliant strategy ill executed is far less successful than a middling strategy done well. Execution, in other words, is more important than brilliant thinking. All things being equal, coming up with a brilliant strategy and then executing against it seems to be the best of all possible worlds.
> If you don’t control all the moving parts, reduce their quantity until you control all of them. How many times has a program hung up because a third party is late with a proposal, a quote, a contract, or some other critical component? When in doubt, make and don’t buy. If you sales team isn’t up to the task, have marketing make the face to face call. If you can’t get a major brand to provide your value-added promotion, make it yourself. You’ll save time, probably money, and whatever you lose in brand cache will be more than made up for by speed and execution.
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The “capability gap” is the critical open ground between the right situation for the right company and its ability to execute it. Often, these gaps are focused on problems with structure — the SEM example, where the needed (and lacking) operational people are on the wrong side of the world from your customers and lack the language and cultural training to make them adequate to the task. But more often, the gap is in the minds of the people you are relying on to get the job done — the pieces of the structure that “fit,” but don’t “work.”

How one deals with this in a business setting is more often than not an exercise in simplification and focus. Reducing your dependencies to a few carefully chosen resources is usually the right first step. The second is figuring out why the problem exists in the first place.
As a famous 20th Century philosopher once said, “Companies with communication problems don’t need to communicate more — they need to reduce the need to communicate.” Another famous 20th Century philosopher said, “Just win, baby.” Both are rules to live by.