Closing the Knowing-Doing Gap

Bob Cramblitt reports on Jeff Pfeffer’s talk from Business of Software 2007. To sign up for BoS 2008, visit

Ignorance might be bliss, but it is anathema to a great company.

Jeffrey Pfeffer of the Stanford Graduate School of Business capped the two-day Business of Software 2007 conference by urging conference participants to start the future tomorrow, and to decide what they will do differently.

Pfeffer’s presentation, titled "Why Software Companies Don’t Do What They Know — And What Leaders Can Do About It" was peppered with anecdotes from his experience with diverse organizations such as SAS Institute and Men’s Wearhouse.

Overcoming fear, the corporate star system, and the millstones of the past were central themes.  Pfeffer discussed the principal obstacles to closing the gap between what companies know and what they do, including:

  • Doing what everyone else is doing.
  • Measuring too many things and the wrong things. Measure the two or three most important things for your business, and not what is easiest.
  • Absence of an action orientation because of fear of making a mistake.
  • Fear of job loss, telling the truth, conflict, or not being liked.
  • Ego that gets in the way of admitting what we don’t know and that we’ve made mistakes.
  • The victim mentality — seeing things as happening to us instead of feeling efficacious.
  • Commitment to the past.
  • Choosing "better before worse" instead of "worse before better."
  • Reluctance to doing things differently.

For more on Pfeffer, please see the interview on this blog:—-and-th.html