According to authors of the book, The Knowing-Doing Gap, the greatest problem that modern businesses face is the gap between knowing and doing. According to the authors, this gap costs businesses billions of dollars per year. The world has become a haven for knowledge experts in every business niche. However, organizations do not have enough "doers" in their organization to turn the knowledge that they possess into revenues. The book, The Knowing-Doing Gap examines the problem that businesses face in turning their hard-earned knowledge into numbers on the ledger. Let us examine how the information contained in this seminal work can be applied to the human resources field.
The human resource textbook, Managing Human Resources, by Bohlander and Snell, explores many aspects of Human Resource Management that can be applied to the field. It provides an overview of the key topics that the future human resources management personnel will face. The concepts contained in The Knowing-Doing Gap, can be applied to almost any field, including human resources.
Human resources theory has developed extensively over the past several decades. The technology used to carry out routine human resources management activities has also changed drastically over this same time period. Like many fields, the human resources field is full of theory and practical knowledge, but only a small percentage of it actually makes it into human resource practice. One of the areas where the connection between knowing and doing is most critical is in international human resource management. Bohlander and Snell discuss this issue specifically in Chapter 15 of Human Resources Management.
International human resources management is one area that is critical to maintaining the competitive advantage of major corporations. Bohlander and Snell discuss the four types of global organizations. They include global, which treats the world as a single marketplace. The transnational organization uses local facilities to meet the needs of the local markets. The international organization uses existing capabilities to expand into foreign markets. Multinational organizations operate subsidiaries as stand-alone business units in various countries. According to Bohlander and Snell (2004), Global and Transnational organizations are more efficient than International or Multinational business structures. Each of these organizational types requires a different type of human resources structure.
Managing international human resources is complex. Aside from the issues such as maintaining proper staffing levels to meet demand, avoiding litigation and managing conflict, human resources must contend with cultural issues and the need to adapt their HR policies to meet the requirements of different government entities and systems. Communication makes it easy to obtain the information needed, but putting this knowledge into action can be a different story. This is where the knowing-doing gap addressed by The most common method for obtaining information on employee opinions is the survey. Companies use the information obtained from these surveys to assess their performance. Some have developed scorecards to assess employee satisfaction (Van De Voorde, Paauwe, & Van Veldhoven, 2009). Companies use employee surveys to assess a number of different aspects of the business. A direct relationship has been established between firm performance and business performance (Wright, Gardner, & Moynihan et al., 2005). Studies have demonstrated that group-based pay and firm performance are directly linked (Kim & Gong, 2009). This same study also found that group-based pay positively affects the sharing of tacit knowledge creates a sense of corporate citizenship among employees.
According to Kim & Gong (2009) companies already know the value of transferring tacit knowledge among members of their corporation. However, as Bohlander and Snell point out, the transference of tacit corporate knowledge presents many difficulties when the complexities of global business are added to the mix. The Knowing-Doing Gap addresses this problem in a manner that can be applied to a number of business scenarios.
The Reasons for the Knowing-Doing Gap in Human Resources
Pfeffer and Sutton found that many times the knowing-doing gap is the result of certain decisions being handed down by management and nothing being done about it. They are only words. Therefore, decisions are made within the organization that changes nothing. Pfeffer and Sutton found other reasons for the inability of knowledge to become operational. These reasons include outdated corporate culture, fear of change, the inability to make meaningful measurements, and internal competition. According to the authors, these factors are the key reasons for the inability to bridge this gap.
Pfeffer and Sutton highlight the importance of knowledge for organizations. It is necessary for them to maintain their market share, maintain a competitive advantage and can mean their survival. In today's world, knowledge is King, but knowledge alone is not enough. The inability to use this knowledge is rampant in today's organizations. There is so much knowledge floating around from various sources, that companies do not know what to do with it. Obtaining knowledge is not he problem, knowing what to do with it is the key problem in organizations today, according to Pfeffer and Sutton.
Many organizations hire consultants for their knowledge and expertise. HR departments are no exception and companies often hire HR consultants to help them manage problems. Pfeffer and Sutton present an example where the failure to use knowledge can lead to the inability to gain the services that they need. Consultants often will not sign contracts with companies who have been given good advice by prior consultants, but who failed to implement the plan. They will only help those who are willing to help themselves. It is one thing not to know which road to take, but it is another to fail to take it once it has been laid out. Hiring a consultant and then failing to implement their plan is just wasted money and another example of using words that have no substance.
Pfeffer and Sutton feel that knowledge management that is technology-based is often useless, as it is difficult to implement. This is particularly the case in small companies that might not have the resources available to purchase what is needed. Technology can be an aid or barrier to resolving the knowing-doing gap. Pfeffer and Sutton feel that it is often more of a barrier than a solution to the problem.
The culture of the organization is often the greatest barrier to resolving the knowing-doing gap. Adopting knowledge requires change management. There are many reasons for the inability to change. Pfeffer and Sutton cite a lack of courage and the inability to admit past mistakes and fear of the unknown. They continually point out that knowledge is useless unless it is put into action.
Solutions to the Problem
Pfeffer and Sutton spend considerable time pointing out the problems associated with the knowing-doing gap. They propose several solutions to the problem. The first solution to the problem is the method of knowledge acquisition itself. Pfeffer and Sutton propose that knowledge is better put into action when it is obtained by doing, rather than by studying. This method of knowledge acquisition coincides with the idea that experience is the best teacher. Pfeffer and Sutton state this in their book indirectly.
Another problem that Pfeffer and Sutton found in the ability to transform knowledge into action is that they often substitute memory for thinking. This is especially problematic in companies that have a strong identity. When a consultant presents an idea that is inconsistent with their image of who they are, they will immediately reject it. They will not accept anything that is not consistent with what they have done in the past. This archaic type of thinking will not result in the changes that are needed to meet the challenges of a changing world. Pfeffer and Sutton also point out that if the new idea will jeopardize someone's position within the organization, they will be likely to reject it, or become protectionist. Pfeffer and Sutton point out that old methods of doing things are based more on tradition than on science and that the inability to adapt can mean the extinction of the company, as their competition adapts to the changes. All of these problems and solutions can be applied to the entire organization, or to the human resources department.
Knowledge cannot always be transferred from one organization to another, even if they are in the same business. That is a key reason why human resources departments are so different in companies that are in direct competition with one another. One example of this that is cited by Pfeffer and Sutton is the case of Saturn and General Motors. Saturn was built by General Motors from the ground up. Saturn was based on new ideas that were as of yet untested in the U.S. market. Their mission statement was,
"Market vehicles developed and manufactured in the United States that are world leaders in quality, cost and customer enthusiasm through the integration of people, technology and business systems and to exchange knowledge, technology and experience throughout
General Motors, " (Pfeffer and Sutton, 2000).
According to Pfeffer and Sutton, it was the last sentence of…
A mission is valueless if it does not truthfully motivate and guide the force of every worker in the similar course. Everyone has to consider the mission is sensible and achievable and not just unfilled speechifying (11).
Business leaders must "outshine" by setting the model for all workers. They do not merely converse about missions, but they develop into a perfect example of the contemporary value; they should live by