To close a gap fast, focus on the little things

Edited excerpt from Little Things by Ben Horowitz:

Andy Grove said: “I have seen far too many people who upon recognizing today’s gap try very hard to determine what decision has to be made to close it. But today’s gap represents a failure of planning some time in the past.”

If you are worried about the quarter, you might think that it’s a good idea to call your head of sales twice a day to get the status. By doing so, you might think you are creating the appropriate sense of urgency. In reality, you are just distracting her from closing the quarter twice a day.

While it’s correct to worry about the big issues, you must resist the urge to act on them directly. Before acting, you should first translate the big thing into a related set of little things.

For example, if you are worried about making the quarter, then you should go on a few sales calls and see if you are selling your product in the most effective way possible. Are your sales people properly trained? Do they run a process that puts your product in the very best light and sets appropriate traps for your competitors? Are you selling at the right level in the organization? Is your product truly competitive?

As you get the answers to these questions, you will develop more constructive little things to take action on. These little things might not help you make this quarter, but they will certainly help you make next quarter.

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