Leading Comments

Russ Volckmann


Jeffrey Pfeffer and Robert I. Sutton.
The Knowing-Doing Gap.
Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard Business School Press, 2000.

Pfeffer and Sutton studied what it is about businesses that make it so difficult for them to implement what they know. The gap is the product of a number of factors. For example, people act on the basis of experience drawn from the past rather than thinking about and analyzing current situations. Or the focus is on measurement instead of using the range of knowledge available. Or the development of cooperative, rather than competitive, internal cultures.They offer eight guidelines for action:

  1. Why before how: philosophy is important.
  2. Knowing comes from doing and teaching others how.
  3. Action counts more than elegant plans and concepts.
  4. There is no doing without mistakes. What is the company’s response?
  5. Fear fosters knowing-doing gaps, so drive out fear.
  6. Beware of false analogies: fight the competition, not each other.
  7. Measure what matters and what can help turn knowledge into action.And most interesting to the question of leadership:
  8. What leaders do, how they spend their time and how they allocate resources, matters.

“Leaders of companies that experience smaller gaps between what they know and what they do understand that their most important task is not necessarily to make strategic decisions at all. Their task is to help build systems of practice that produce a more reliable transformation of knowledge into action…to create an environment in which there are lots of people who both know and do. Leaders create environments, reinforce norms, and help set expectations through what they do, through their actions and not just their words.”Perhaps they are suggesting that people who both know and do can exercise leadership?

Thanks for taking the time to consider this e-publication in a world of data overload. For leaders, collaborators, consultants, academics and coaches alike; I welcome you to some ideas and a dialogue that may benefit us all. I hope you will contact me soon with your idea, reference or article. Suggestions on improvement are welcome.
Russ Volckmann, PhD, Coaching Leaders in Business and Life
Tel: 831.333-9200, FAX: 831.656-0110
This material is intended for informational and educational purposes only. Financial, Legal and Professional information is not Financial, Legal and Professional advice. You should see a Financial, Legal or Professional in the area in which you live if you need advice.
You are welcome to share the contents of this e-publication. Please provide source information,
Thank you.