Practising Best Practises in Your Software Development Process - The Knowing-Doing Gap (Page 5 of 7 )
The phenomenon of practitioners not doing what they know to be best practice is not peculiar to the software industry. In their book of the same name, Jeffrey Pfeffer and Robert Sutton call it ‘The Knowing-Doing Gap’, and cite many instances taken from a wide range of industries. They argue that the most important impedance to progress and competitive advantage is not ignorance, but the inability to turn knowledge into action.
So what prevents us from turning knowledge into action? Well, sometimes the cause is a basic self-deception — a belief that a pre-cursor to action is the action itself. For example, there is a big difference between talking about doing something and actually doing it. Other times, you need to add procedural structure to your knowledge to successfully translate from knowledge into action. For example, it’s no good just having the goal of losing weight, and knowing that you need to plan your diet — you need to attend to your diet as part of your daily routine.
Pfeffer and Sutton cite the following as the main causes of the Knowing-Doing Gap:
Substituting Talk for Action — Talking about what should be done, writing plans, and analysing data to help make decisions are all useful precursors to action, but are no substitute for action itself.
Using Memory as a Substitute for Thinking — People often do what has always been done without thinking. The organisational memory in the form of company customs, standard procedures, or personal experience of problems solved in the past are often misapplied to a new problem.
Fear Prevents Acting on Knowledge — In some situations, people might know what action they should take, but the fear of its consequences prevents them from doing it. The action might be complex, or simply new, different and unpredictable. The resulting fear is a fear of risk, of making mistakes, discovering errors and providing an imperfect end product. There might also be fear that the competition could get ahead in the meantime, a fear of the reactions of others, or a fear of making a fool of oneself. In the face of such fears, the safest and most ‘rational’ action can be inaction.
Measurement Obstructs Good Judgement — Decisions are made based on what is measured. If inappropriate things are being measured or the choice of what is measured is biased, then the resulting statistics will cloud good judgement.