Jeffrey Pfeffer, Robert I Sutton

  • Too many managers want to learn “how” in terms of detailed practices and techniques, rather than “why” in terms of philosophy and general guidance for action.
  • Learning is best done by trying a lot things, learning from what works and what does not, thinking about what was learned, and trying again.
  • Without taking some action, learning is more difficult and less efficient because it is not grounded in real experience.
  • In building a culture of action, one of the most critical elements is what happens when things go wrong. Even well planned actions can go wrong.
  • Fear in organizations causes all kinds of problems. People will not try something new if the reward is likely to be a career disaster.

1 thought on “Jeffrey Pfeffer, Robert I Sutton

  1. shinichi Post author

    The Knowing Doing Gap

    by Jeffrey Pfeffer and Robert I Sutton

    http://www.wenell.se/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/thinking_knowing.pdf

    Why do so much education and training, management consulting, and business research and so many books and articles produce so little change in what managers and organizations actually do? The authors call this the knowing-doing problem – the challenge of turning knowledge about how to enhance organizational performance into actions consistent with that knowledge. Improving organizational performance depends largely on implementing what is already known, rather than from adopting new or previously unknown ways of doing things. This book is about how to convert knowledge into action.

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    Turning Knowledge into Action
    The knowing-doing gap arises due to several factors. According to the authors, this gap can be minimized if we understand and carefully deal with the following factors:

    Why before how.
    Too many managers want to learn “how” in terms of detailed practices and behaviors and techniques, rather than “why” in terms of philosophy and general guidance for action.

    Knowing comes from doing and teaching others how.
    Learning is best done by trying a lot things, learning from what works and what does not, thinking about what was learned, and trying again.

    Action counts more than elegant plans and concepts
    Without taking some action, learning is more difficult and less efficient because it is not grounded in real experience. The idea of “firing” and then “aiming” helps to establish a cultural tone that talk and analysis without action are unacceptable.

    There is no doing without mistakes
    In building a culture of action, one of the most critical elements is what happens when things go wrong. Even well planned actions can go wrong. All learning involves some ‘failure,’ something from which one can continue to learn. Reasonable failure should never be received with anger.

    Fear fosters knowing-doing gaps, so drive out fear.
    Fear in organizations causes all kinds of problems. People will not try something new if the reward is likely to be a career disaster.
    Putting people first and driving out fear are not just ideas to be implemented when times are good. Companies can downsize, can even close a facility, but do it in a way that maintains employee dignity and well-being and, as a consequence, productivity and performance.
    Fear starts, or stops, at the top. It is unfortunate, but true, that a formal hierarchy gives people at the top the power to fire or harm the careers of people at lower levels. Fear of job loss reflects not only the reality of whether or not one can readily find another job, but also the personal embarrassment that any form of rebuke causes. In organizations that are successful in turning knowledge into action, leaders inspire respect, affection, or admiration, but not fear.

    Fight the competition, not each other.
    It is a mistaken idea that because competition has apparently triumphed as an economic system, competition within organizations is a superior way of managing. Firms establish various practices that intensify internal rivalry: forced-curve performance rankings, prizes and recognition for relatively few employees, raises given out in a zero-sum fashion, and individual rewards and measurements that set people against each other.

    Cooperation has somehow developed a bad reputation in many organizations.
    Collaborative, cooperative organizations, where people worry about the welfare of each other and the whole instead of just themselves, seem to remind some people of socialism. The authors emphasise that, cooperation must be viewed positively. Cooperation means that the result is the product of common effort, the goal is shared, and each member’s success is linked with very other’s.

    Measure what matters and what can help turn knowledge into action.
    The dictum that what is measured is what gets done has led to the apparent belief that if a company measures more things, more will get done. But that is not at all the case. Typical information systems can tell us what has happened – but they seldom provide information that is helpful in determining why results have been as they have or what is going to happen in the near future. So organizations must also measure processes, not just outcomes. A few measures that are directly related to the basic business model are better than a plethora of measures that produce a lack of focus and confusion about what is important and what is not.

    What leaders do, how they spend their time and how they allocate resources, matters.
    Leaders of companies which have been successful in minimizing the knowing-doing gap understand that their most important task is not necessarily to make strategic decisions, or, for that matter, many decisions at all. Their task is to help build systems that facilitate transformation of knowledge into action in a smooth, reliable way.

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