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25 May 2020

Gap-and-fill analysis

Aside from the conventional ‘gap analysis’, it is possible to do a ‘fill analysis’ to discover the things that the organization is doing successfully already – its strengths, foundations on which to build. The analytical processes are almost the same but a fill analysis aims to identify, learn from and expand upon the strengths - the positives - whereas a gap analysis involves hunting down and addressing the weaknesses - the negatives.

These are complementary not alternative approaches.

So, for instance, if the organization is poor at compliance, OK at policies and excellent at impact assessment:
  • A gap analysis would focus on closing the compliance gaps;
  • A fill analysis would focus on learning from and extending the successful approach to impact assessment;
  • A gap-and-fill analysis would look to make the best of all three areas, bringing them all up to scratch, using the best of the policy and impact assessment areas to improve compliance, policies and other aspects, taking a broader perspective.
A typical example is a SWOT analysis to identify the organisation’s Strengths and Weaknesses (in the present situation resulting from its history to date) plus its Opportunities (for future improvement, usually, but more creative approaches may be appropriate e.g. novel methods, strategies and frameworks) and Threats (really, Risks – bad stuff that may occur in future if issues are ignored or not resolved effectively). Considering all four aspects in parallel leads to a more comprehensive, well-rounded or balanced approach.

In particular, the fill analysis and Strengths and Opportunities parts of SWOT are inherently motivational. We all like to know where we are doing well and we often respond energetically when shown we could do even better, whereas being told we are doing badly and must address problems can be disheartening or demotivating. We grudgingly accept the need to improve, responding to external pressure, as opposed to willingly and freely exploiting our inner strengths.

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