Your rating(Clear)Rate this item


There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.

57 of 59 people found the following review helpful
on January 4, 2000
As a consultant working with various companies, I found the content of this book very useful in providing a framework for strategic planning sessions. One of the biggest challenges for executive leadership teams is to move from smart talk to action. Using the principles from this book, I've found leadership teams now focused not only on strategic thinking but also on translating that thinking into action. In addition, the Harvard Business Review article, "The Smart Talk Trap", was excellent pre-reading for executives prior to the strategic planning session. The case studies provided real life examples that leaders can relate to. This book is a must read for anyone struggling to implement new strategies! I intend to continue to use it with executive leadership teams.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
53 of 55 people found the following review helpful
on March 12, 2000
I think it was the late Frank Zappa who once said that the most plentiful element in the universe was not hydrogen, it was stupidity. Followers of Dilbert will know that the corporate world is full of stupidity, but how does it get there? For me, this book went a long way to explaining why seemingly smart people do such stupid things in business and what to do about it.
If you have ever been frustrated by the way people in your company act or by yourself and your inability to get anything done, read this insight into what causes the gap between knowing what to do and actually doing it.
It all comes down to fear. If you follow the advice in the book and drive out fear, both within yourself and in those around you, things will get done. Deming, it seems, was right.
I read this at the same time as reading David Schwartz' excellent "Magic of Thinking Big". Put the two works together and the penny will suddenly drop for you, as it did for me.
From that moment forth, you will see how knowing things just isn't enough. Unapplied ideas are simply worthless vapour. What counts is getting stuff done. Results are everything.
Follow the advice in this book and you can get things done too.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
30 of 30 people found the following review helpful
on March 23, 2000
It seems like a straightforward question: Why aren't we doing what we know we should be doing? The answer to this question, it would seem, should be both simple and complex; this book's main virtue is that it provides both. Their unblinking examinations of so many obvious and ridiculous screw-ups and mess-ups of all kinds makes the simple foolishness of it all so completely apparent (this collection of examples alone is well worth the cost of admission). But then again (thankfully), they don't oversimplify their discussion of the full range of the "human and organizational frailties" that we've all learned to know and love, and that are at the source of these kinds of problems.
If you want a hand-holding spoon-feeding checklist, look elsewhere. The authors show specifically why this kind of "checklist" attitude is a BIG part of the problem (notice how the summaries they provide at the end of each section pull together their main points nicely without oversimplifying them). However if you're looking for a guide to help you to actually think your way through these kinds of problems, as they beset you in your organizational life (and possibly in your personal life), then this is a definite "must read."
For these reasons (and both because of and in spite of its critique of MBA education practices), this book will become definite required reading in our core management course.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on November 19, 1999
Pfeffer and Sutton provide two important lessons for managers: 1) they define the major impediments to implementing performance-enhancing innovations, and 2) they describe dozens of real-life examples of companies that either fell prey to these impediments or conquered them. The great thing about this book is that it uncovers some common mistakes that we all make, but are afraid to correct. Things like confusing "smart talk" for smart actions and relying on fear as a motivator are easily recognized as dumb managerial thinking. Yet, we've all sat in meetings and conceeded to the speaker with the big words and the intimidating manner - even if we know he or she is wrong - because we're afraid to acknowledge that we know better and because we assume that anyone with this vocabulary must be working as well as he or she is speaking. I've already used this book as an illustration of wrong management practices in my research, and intend to use it in my MBA courses.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on November 21, 1999
I purchased this book after reading the authors' Harvard Business Review article on the "smart talk trap." I found myself nodding in agreement with the points they made in that article, and their book has proven to be equally insightful. In a clear, concise manner, Pfeffer and Sutton describe (and illustrate) some of the key organizational impediments to action and implementation, and perhaps more importantly, highlight ways to circumvent them. I highly recommend this book, especially to anyone in industry who feels analysis should be a means, not an end. And if you've grown weary of reading about the latest management fads and buzzwords, this book is a refreshing departure.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on August 28, 2009
"I know kung fu."

In the Matrix, when Neo wants to learn kung-fu all he has to do is upload a fighting module. A few seconds later and he's sparring with Morpheus in a virtual dojo. Living in a computer simulation and being bred as an energy source for a machine master-race has its disadvantages, but at least you get to learn stuff fast. Here in the real world, much knowledge is gained the hard way - by doing. You can't just upload it. Or store it, index it or e-mail it around.

This is one of the factors behind what Jeff Pfeffer and Bob Sutton call 'the knowing-doing gap'. In this book, Pfeffer and Sutton examine why companies don't do what they know they should. The first problem is language. 'Knowledge' is a noun, so we treat knowledge as a concrete object we can manipulate, like steel or books. In reality, it's a process; the process of riding a bike, speaking French or running a company. Hence companies don't truly know what they claim they do. They might have their mission statements written down on small, laminated cards; and they might say - and even believe - that people are their most valuable assets, but this isn't true knowledge, and won't become so until they act.

Pfeffer and Sutton give plenty more reasons too. Here are just a handful:

An emphasis on talk, rather than action. It's easier to judge people on what they say than what they actually do, and that's often how we hire, reward and promote. The guy with the quick put-downs, rapid-fire banter and sarcastic comments is perceived as smarter than the quiet one in the corner who bothers nobody, knuckles down and gets stuff done.

If action is harder than talking, then mindless action is harder than thoughtful action. When organisations hit a problem, rather than think it through afresh they tend to follow the path laid down before, often by people long-gone and in circumstances lost in history. Processes fossilize and are never challenged. Sacred cows get fat when they should be slaughtered, just because "that's how we do things round here".

Internal competition, whether it's bonuses determined by forced-ranking or having an employee of the month, is often a zero sum game that benefits some individuals but that harms entire organisations. In such competitions, there are two ways to succeed. The hard way is to out-perform your coworkers. The easy way is to sabotage them, or belittle their achievements. It's no surprise that many people settle for the easy option.

This is a fantastic book. Like most of Pfeffer and Sutton's work, and as you'd expect from two Stanford professors, it's based on solid research. Case studies are used to illustrate theories and bring them to life, rather than to 'prove' them as many business books do. As well as explaining why the knowing-doing gap exists, the book gives ideas on how to fix them. Is your organisation paralysed by internal fighting? Then find an external enemy to focus on - that's what Apple did with IBM when they launched the first Macintosh in 1984. Is your company trapped by its history? Examine, make explicit and challenge the assumptions that lie behind its sclerotic procedures. Are your people afraid to make mistakes? Make it explicit - with your deeds and not just your words - that there is a soft landing available for those who try and fail.

The beauty of this book - like other works of Pfeffer and Sutton - is that much of it seems like common sense once you've read it. Pfeffer and Sutton have a knack of articulating ideas that you feel you already half know, but that are just - but only just - out of your grasp. As you read, you can sense them coming into focus, crystallizing out of the fog of your mind. Of course concentrating purely on short-term financial success can kill a company's culture. Of course you should commit to metrics that reflect, and don't contradict, your underlying philosophies. Of course pitting colleagues against each other is going to backfire, and of course the absurd idea that this could ever work is based on sloppy sporting analogies. But it's only once Pfeffer and Sutton have made these points - and many others - lucid that they become obvious.

Although excellent, the book - as Pfeffer and Sutton acknowledge explicitly throughout - contains one flaw. A text whose thesis is that knowledge can only be earned through action, and then hopes to teach it through words, is bound to have only partial success. Read this book - and if you're running, or working in, any organisation larger than a handful of people then you should - and you will only have taken the first step to learning about the knowing-doing gap and how to fix it. The next step?

Action
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on May 10, 2000
Yes, I should have given it a 5! I totally agree to other reviewers that this book is a wake-up call for most of us - people who have difficulties in reducing the gap between knowing and doing.
I came across this book when I was preparing a speech to a local non-profit making organisation. Pfeffer and Sutton have identified serveral reasons why people tend to talk more than to do.
(1) When TALK substitutes for ACTION - making presentation instead of doing the actual stuff! (2) When MEMORY is a substitute for ACTION - limited by one's own thought and could not make a leap forward by implementing. (3) When FEAR prevents ACTING ON KNOWLEDGE - Yes! This is what bothers me for years! (4) When MEASUREMENT obstruct GOOD JUDGMENT (5) When Internal Competition turns FRIENDS into ENEMY.
This book is a consolidation of what I will call "common sense". However, with tons of examples given by the two authors, it is a wealth of knowledge.
What is missing is a lack of systematic analysis of the situation. If you are a big fan of Michael Porter (HBR Authors with his famous 5-forces model), you will find this book a bit loose.
Another reason why I have given it a 4 is because after reading Chris Agyris's book (Flawless Advice...) I have become more cautious in accepting advice from the guru. At the end of the day, it is about HOW MUCH WE HAVE CHANGED AFTER READING THIS BOOK! This is exactly why the authors have the last chapter titled as "turning knowledge into action". (I am sure if they didn't do that, they would have been critised for not walking the talk)
This book is worth-reading. Give it a try and see how much changes it brings to you. For me, I have done 3 things differently and achieved excellent results in the last 2 days! )
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on June 26, 2003
Pfeffer and Sutton caught my interest immediately in The Knowing-Doing Gap by telling the story of a major U.S. Bank who had hired 5 consulting firms in six years who made the same recommendation based on the same data. But, the recommendations had never been implemented. With billions spent on consulting, and countless M.B.A.'s in the workforce, it is amazing how much we know as compared to what we actually deliver.
As an HR person, I often struggle to find out why some people and organizations are able to get things done while others simply talk about things and cannot deliver results. It is often our role to lead the leaders and to help build the capability of our people. The authors examine the reasons why we often fail to do what we know needs to be done. We substitute talk for action, we rely on imitation or memory of the past as a substitution for new thinking, an atmosphere of fear prevents acting on what we know, we rely too heavily on measurement systems that obstruct judgment and common sense, and we compete internally instead of externally.
Several examples of companies who have demonstrated the ability to turn knowledge into action are described including British Petroleum, Barclays Global Investors, and the New Zealand Post.
After establishing that the knowing-doing gap is an important problem that must be overcome, the authors give eight guidelines for action:
1. Why before How: Philosophy is Important.
2. Knowing Comes from Doing and Teaching Others How.
3. Action Counts More Than Elegant Plans and Concepts.
4. There is No Doing without Mistakes. What is the company's Response?
5. Fear Fosters Knowing-Doing Gaps, So Drive Out Fear.
6. Beware of False Analogies: Fight the Competition, Not Each Other.
7. Measure What Matters and What Can Help Turn Knowledge into Action.
8. What Leaders Do, How They Spend their Time and How they Allocate Resources, Matters.
An easier read than Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan's Execution, The Knowing-Doing Gap gives us a better understanding of organizational processes that stand in the way of real results. The solution relies on actually turning knowledge into action. Each chapter gives solid advice which if followed will yield actionble results.

While written for the general business reader, Human resources professionals will find many ways to assist our business partners in overcoming lots of talk and no action or results. There are suggestions for overcoming obstacles, communication, leadership behavior, driving a productive corporate culture, and overcoming past behavior that is counter productive.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on December 3, 1999
I found this work to contribute a much-needed balance to the vast number of books that only deal with strategy recommendations; this text in contrast provides ample case studies and a framework for considering how to wrestle with the hard work of strategy execution. The balance of chapters is unusual for a management text -- 5 full chapters highlighting various classes of problems that occur in organizations -- but I think this is appropriate. I found myself seeing many instances of the same traps the authors cite in my own organization and now have a new approach to seek solutions. Again, a good addition for a well-balanced management library.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on November 10, 1999
After many years in a large organization, I attended countless management seminars, only to return to work and discover it was more difficult to implement new strategies than to learn about them. "The Knowing-Doing Gap" not only offers juicy stories of companies with the same difficulties, but by use of example, illustrates practical remedies for this all-too-common problem. Understanding the mechanics of this behavior is essential to avoiding it, and making the most of what we already know. A lively read for the businessperson, layperson, academic and consumer.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse

Send us feedback

How can we make Amazon Customer Reviews better for you?
Let us know here.