Mind the gap image from the London underground - remember that gaps you identify in a simulation are not all the same

Not All Gaps Are Created Equal: Process Gaps Versus Cultural Shortfalls

July 21, 2021

One of the real benefits we see with crisis simulations is that these work very well as gap analyses. After a simulation, it’s easy to see the gap between your current state and your desired state.

How well can you develop a plan and put that into action?

How well do our processes hold up?

What deficiencies are there in our teams

Which areas are aligned and which aren’t?

All of these questions are quickly answered after a simulation.


Not all gaps are equal

A simulation will easily help you identify where you are, where you want to be, and any gap between the two.

But not all gaps are the same and the most significant difference we see is between functional gaps and cultural shortfalls.

For example, you might have a gap where you don’t have any social media monitoring tools. So if there’s a lot of chatter on social media, you won’t have the tools in place to understand and evaluate that chatter. That’s not a particularly acute problem and the gap is easily fixed with some processes.

Similarly, suppose someone on your team may need to be a spokesperson – perhaps your CEO or a subject matter expert – but they haven’t had any media training. That is easily fixed with the necessary training.

Both of these are examples of gaps that are easy to spot, diagnose and fix.

But what if the gap that you’ve identified is more about culture? 

Cultural shortfalls versus gaps

An example of a cultural shortfall would be a lack of willingness to say ‘we’re sorry.’ That’s less of a gap than a cultural challenge. Maybe there’s a difference of opinion between your senior leadership team and your general counsel that’s causing that hesitation to apologize. It’s going to take some work to get everyone on the same page.

Similarly, if a board member with significant sway over the CEO or the leadership team always weighs in at the 11-hour, then that’s a considerable challenge and one that won’t be easy to address.

Neither of these is something that’s easily improved with a tool, training, or awareness.

So alongside a list of gaps in your crisis response, the simulation will also highlight these cultural difficulties that are much more about long-term change management and orientation around values. 

So be careful when you are articulating the gaps that you identify in your crisis simulation and differentiate between process or performance gaps and cultural shortfalls. The latter are the kinds of things that go to your organization’s core and are much more significant challenges to address than gaps that you can easily fix or workaround. 

Changing culture takes time

If you find that you have these more significant cultural challenges, you need to think about how to get your leadership together to talk about these shortfalls. You might need to illustrate the stakes, mock up some news articles, talk about what happened to other people in your industry, your competitors, or your peers. 

But it’s going to require a conversation, some long-term thinking, and a decent amount of time to fully address these cultural issues and start to solve them. Culture is key but it takes time to change.

So keep doing simulations and do them aggressively to push your organization, identify gaps and the fixes that will transform you into a crisis-ready organization. 

But also keep in mind that you might discover some things relating to your culture, and these won’t be fixed as quickly as simple gaps. Instead, these require a lot more thought, engagement, and, in my experience, subtlety.

Photo by Suad Kamardeen on Unsplash

Filed under: Blog


Bill is a reputation management, crisis communications and professional development expert, keynote speaker, Wall Street Journal Risk & Compliance panelist, and best-selling author of Critical Moments: The New Mindset of Reputation Management. He has more than 25 years of global experience managing high-stakes crises, issues management, and media relations challenges for both Fortune 500 companies and winning global political campaigns.