Once you are into the implementation stage of your project you may find that you start to experience the knowing-doing gap. Quite simply you know what needs to be done, you think you have put the right structures and processes in place but for some reason this hasn’t translated into the right sort of response. Pfeffer & Sutton (2000) identify a number of factors that contribute to this gap:
- Thinking that knowing is sufficient for success
- Thinking that talking (meetings, committees, reports, etc.) is action
- Thinking that measuring things is action or contributes to performance
- Thinking that making a decision is the same as taking action
- Thinking that planning is the same as action
Clogging the gap by giving in to the inhibitions of fear:
- Fearing complexity, lack of clarity about what specifically to do
- Fearing risk, mistakes, errors, and imperfection
- Fearing competition, focusing on what others are doing and trying to get ahead
- Fearing the new, the different, the unpredictable, falling back on precedence (standard operating procedures) and so mindlessly defaulting to what you’ve always done
Taboos that prevent and forbid action:
- ‘Don’t make a fool of yourself'
- ‘Don’t risk making a mistake, it’s too dangerous'
- ‘Don’t be imperfect'
Lack of structure for action:
- No structure for following up
- No structure for rewarding learning from mistakes
- No structure for rewarding risk taking
Personal items predisposing us from taking action:
- Not being action oriented in our person, being inactive and passive
- Making excuses and letting excuses stop us
- Discounting small actions
Angehrn (2005) has shown how the gap links to the phases of adoption of a change:
If you recognise these symptoms in your change project you need to identify the underlying causes. If there seems to be a particular problem area you might try using the 5 whys tool again to get to the root of the problem.