What Are We Missing?
Undertaking a gap analysis to help improve your company doesn't have to be a daunting task. Using the four steps in gap analysis methodology, (understanding the surrounding environment, taking a wholistic approach to understanding the environment, determining a framework for analysis, compiling supportive data), you can obtain important information about key areas to focus on in your process or quality improvement project.
It can be difficult, however, to understand exactly what it is that is meant by "gap analysis." Viewing a sample gap analysis may help your understanding. The sample I will use here is actually a sample from an educational standards improvement project, but gap analyses are applicable in any field.
STEP 1: Identify Strategic Objectives
While many methods for undertaking a gap analysis start with looking at your own company's performance, I think that it's helpful to first have a goal, or end in mind before undertaking the analysis process. Some companies look to benchmarking and best practices of other companies to perform their gap analysis. Here, I'm going to use a couple of standards from California's Model Content Standards. Let's say that my school wants to incorporate a better music program, based upon music content standards set by California educators. Here are a couple sample content standards:
- "1.1 Read an instrumental or vocal score of up to four staves and explain how the elements of music are used."
- "1.5 Identify and explain a variety of compositional devices and techniques used to provide unity, variety, tension, and release in aural examples."
- "2.5 Perform on an instrument in small ensembles, with one performer for each part."
- "3.1 Identify the sources of musical genres of the United States, trace the evolution of these genres, and cite well-known musicians associated with them."
Now, as I go through the process of creating my gap analysis between what the school currently offers, what students are demonstrating as far as knowledge goes, and what needs to be offered to be considered proficient in musical education by the State of California, I will want to make note of each of these standards. You can use our gap analysis template for MS Word, or the gap analysis template for MS Excel, if you wish to follow along with this example.
Once I have identified my content standards, I can place them into the strategic objectives boxes in my file, as you can see in the picture to the left. (Click any image for a larger view.)
*California State Board of Education, Visual and Performing Arts Content STandards for California Public Schools: Prekindergarten Through Grade Twelve." (Sacramento, CA: CDE Press, 2001) 70-71.
STEP 2: Identify Current Standings and Deficiencies
Once you have clarified your strategic objectives, you will need to observe and collect data on your current standings with regards to each of the strategic objectives. To return to our sample gap analysis scenario, let's imagine that the following four items are observed:
- Students are regularly able to read and process instrumental scores, but no program is available for vocal music.
Students can identify and explain select compositional devices, but not all. Their textbooks currently do not provide this information, and for advanced classes, no textbooks are available.
- Students regularly play instruments in ensembles in front of audiences around the city.
- Students were unable to identify, consistently, musical genres in the United States or give the history or well-known musicians associated with the genres.
Now, enter your findings into your chart for the Current Standings and Deficiency columns. You will see that in the template, I have allowed space to describe current conditions and to make note of deficiencies. Take a few minutes to fill in your chart appropriately. When you are done, it should look something like the chart to the right.
STEP 3: Create a Plan of Action
At this point, it should start becoming clear as far as what your next step should be. Look at areas of deficiency and create a plan for improvement based upon these areas given the resources available. Let's say your action plan looks like this:
There is no money to hire a vocal music teacher at the moment. This standard is put on hold until funds are raised by the music
club and PTA for next year's program.
- Research textbooks dealing with music theory for the students. Plan to implement a textbook for the advanced classes.
- Develop a music history unit for each section of music education. Where applicable, implement textbooks for these purposes.
Come up with your own recommendations, and place them in the "Action Plan" section of your gap analysis chart. You can compare your results with the picture to the left.
STEP 4: Back Up Your Plan of Action with Data and Analysis
Finally, after your investigation and planning are complete, you will want to report your findings with the appropriate data and analysis presented. To do this, you may wish to use our gap analysis report template. In your report, you will include things like the background of the company and analysis, problems that have occurred, and even reasons for undertaking the analysis. Then, you will present your findings, showing the strategic objectives, current standing, deficiencies, and whether or not the current situation is acceptable. If the situation is unacceptable, you will present a course of action for improvement. Finally, all of your analysis will be backed up with the data gathered during the analysis.
If you're looking for more sample forms and downloadable templates, check out Bright Hub's resource guide: Over 50 Free Project Management Templates and Sample Forms.
- Screenshots taken by author.