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How to make your business really fly

April 2008

Closing the execution gap – how to make your business really fly

From Sun Tzu to Napoleon to Desert Storm, applying the lessons of the battlefield to the business world has become increasingly popular in the past few years.

However, the teachings former fighter pilot Martin West is passing on to senior managers in companies throughout the Asia-Pacific region are not based on the high-flown strategic theories beloved of staff college lecturers – they have a more practical focus.

West, in Christchurch, Auckland and Wellington this week (8-10 April) with business partner and former international basketball coach Mark Bragg to run a series of one-day business workouts for The Knowledge Gym, says most managers already have a good grasp of strategy and planning.

“They’ve been taught how to plan, they enjoy strategising, and they spend plenty of time doing it,” he says.

“However, getting results can be a different story. There is often a fair distance between what’s planned and what’s achieved – the execution gap.”

West sees his and Bragg’s role as showing managers how to fill that gap.

Simplicity, accountability, and transparency are the keys to closing the execution gap, says West – something he learned as a young trainee pilot who, according to his commanding officer, was “as rough as guts”.

“The boss used to constantly give me stick about my flying technique. I didn’t care too much, I was getting good results in the exercises and, being a typical young officer, knew it all anyway –so I basically ignored him for a year.

“However, when one of the engineers sat us all down and told us we were collectively the worst squad in the Australian Air Force, and that the way we were flying was taking years off the operational life of the planes, I had to think about it a bit,” he remembers.

“And when the following week he put up a chart showing how badly we were doing, and I saw my name heading the list, I had a real incentive to do something about it.

“In two days, that guy achieved what my boss hadn’t managed in 12 months, purely by delivering a simple message (bad flying = excess wear and tear = time and money wasted); introducing personal accountability into the equation (assessing our individual performances against a clear and definite yardstick); and doing it in a transparent way (by putting our results on display for all our peers).”

To register for the one-day “Closing the Execution Gap” workshop, or for more information on the many ways The Knowledge Gym can stretch and grow your business know-how, visit

Closing the Execution Gap
08 April, Christchurch, Hotel Grand Chancellor
09 April, Wellington, The Duxton Hotel, Wakefield Street
10 April, Auckland, The Hilton, Princess Wharf

All events run from 0830hrs until 1630hrs.


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