Friday, August 29, 2003

"The Knowing-Doing Gap"

Just finished up the book "The Knowing-Doing Gap" by Jeffrey Pfeffer and Robert Sutton. Published in 1999, I missed it when it first came out but picked it up recently on a recommendation. A good tip it turned out to be.

The authors point out numerous factors which cause people and companies to not take action on what they already know. Their finest chapter, IMHO, is the one entitled "When Talk Substitutes for Action". Wow. The title alone is a rifle-shot at ineffectiveness. Decisions, Presentations, Mission Statements, Planning; all will substitue for and tranquilize against effective action. Not that any of them are bad; they just can slow action.

This is a huge issue in a Lean effort. All too often, we see and talk about the tools of Lean (kanban, visual management, 5S, lower inventory) and don't actually learn from trying to actually do any of these things. They are far harder to do than to talk about.

This is, by the way, a huge risk in me producing this blog and in you reading it!!! I can substitute writing for doing; you can substitute reading for doing. Ouch.

How do the authors suggest we fight this tendency? They offer 8 prescriptions, which I paraphrase below.

  1. Build a philosophy of action.
  2. Knowing comes from Doing, especially teaching about Doing
  3. Action counts more than Elegant Plans and Concepts
  4. Doing will lead to Mistakes; will we tolerate them?
  5. Fear fosters inaction; Drive out Fear
  6. Fight the competition, not each other
  7. Measure the few key parameters; take quick action on those metrics
  8. How leaders spend their time matters

Please try something today and learn from it. I hope this is helpful. Feel free to forward to a friend. Email me

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