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Minimize The Know-Do Gap

Minimize the Know-Do Gap

Several years ago I was part of a project team that was charged with transitioning a paper reliant company into one that could function the same or better without paper. The goal was to go “paperless” to increase efficiency and productivity. The idea seemed fantastic. Less paper, less processing time, less cost to process, and less waste.

After months of work-beta-testing, fixing, updating, and finally training the end users, the project team introduced the process. The results were disappointing to say the least. There was little interest in the new process. Adoption was slow and fraught with issues. It took months to get everyone on board and even then it was an unhappy acceptance.

Initially we thought that people weren’t adopting the new process because they didn’t fully understand how to do it. Our solution was to provide more training. This made almost no impact.

Then we thought those using the process were so comfortable with “the old way” that they were unwilling to make any changes. So, we explained the benefits again and again and sent weekly reminders and tips about the “new way.” That wasn’t helpful either.

The truth was that those who had been trained knew how to do it. They simply didn’t do it. This is the know-do gap: knowing something but not actually acting on it or executing it.


We’ve all been to workshops where we’ve left thinking “I already know that stuff.” But are we using the tools and strategies? Many of us know what we should do, but for whatever reason we don’t it. This is the know-do gap.

Here are some factors that foster the know-do gap in the workplace:

  • Change requires energy. This is true even when the change is positive. So, if you are change fatigued or if your company has recently undergone many organizational changes you may be depleted and not ready to take on more. In my example-the company had recently undergone several regulatory and compensation changes. The energy to overhaul a major process just wasn’t there.
  • Too many barriers. Why would we abandon something that is comfortable and easy for something that is uncomfortable and difficult? If too many barriers stand in the way of executing our knowledge then we won’t do it. In my story, there were several barriers including a complicated electronic filing system, new additional processing steps and different software navigation. For more doing, remove as many of the barriers as you can.
  • Training is not always the answer. Knowing comes from doing and teaching others. If there is an issue with doing, don’t assume that it’s from lack of training. There may be something else going on.
  • Fear fosters the know-do gap. Get rid of the fear. In a safe learning culture, leadership supports and encourages the “doing” of new techniques. Leaders expect bumps when implementing new things and value the experience and long term potential. There is no doing without mistakes.

Interested in learning more about the know-do gap and how to minimize it? Contact our experts at Pathfinder Strategies! or by phone at 888-529-0240.

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