The Knowing-Doing Gap

Organizations share the commonality of wanting to accomplish their primary goal. This leads to the assumption leaders seek out the most efficient and effective ways to accomplish their goals. Unfortunately, this simply isn’t the reality in the business world. Many organizations hire consultants to conduct assessments and give recommendations for efficient accomplishment of their primary goals, however, though this advice costs millions worldwide each year, it is seldom implemented (Pfeffer & Sutton, 2000). Organizations struggle between desiring to accomplish goals, but not wanting to implement new policies and efficient practices. They struggle to use evidence-based decision making.

The knowing-doing gap is the challenge of turning knowledge about how to enhance organizational performance into actions consistent with that knowledge (Pfeffer & Sutton, 2000). One of the main barriers to implementing evidence-based decision-making is the tendency to treat talking about something as equivalent to actually doing something about it (Pfeffer & Sutton, 2000). Organizations are skilled at identifying and understanding issues, know what needs to happen to affect the performance in these areas, but to fail to do the things they know they should (Pfeffer & Sutton, 2000). Organizational leaders have become skilled at having conversations, meetings, and putting together plans to make decisions based on evidence gathered, however they struggle with implementing action associated with the evidence they have gathered (Pfeffer & Sutton, 2000).

One alarming obstacle for leaders is how analysts who provide valuable information are treated within the organization. Those entrusted with providing the data to allow for evidence-based decision-making to be a reality are often empowered with secretarial work rather than real responsibility, while being treated with mistrust as if they are more like an outside contractor rather than a part of the organizational team(Pfeffer & Sutton, 2000).

How can leaders change how they value analysts?


Pfeffer, J., & Sutton, R. I. (2000). The knowing-doing gap: how smart companies turn knowledge into action. Boston, Mass: Harvard Business School Press.


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