Achieving Business Excellence with John Spence

The Knowing-Doing Gap

Last week I delivered a workshop on the “Leader of the Future” to a group of Directors at the Florida Recreation and Parks Association annual meeting (The FRPA is my longest standing client – 17 years – wow!). Most of these folks have 20 to 30 years in their careers and I told them at the end of the workshop that there was probably very little “new” information that I taught them… but my goal was simply to remind them of the core fundamentals of business excellence and challenge them to take a long hard look in the mirror and see if they were actually living these things every single day in their organizations.

The truth of the matter is that pretty much all of us know the key things it takes to run a successful organization: a clear vision for success, adding real value to the marketplace, surround yourself with top talent, create high levels of accountability, be fanatic about listening to and serving the customer… as I wrote in my book, the building blocks of business success are Awesomely Simple.

However, we also all know the cliché, “What is common sense is not always common practice.” The core ideas maybe awesomely simple, but executing them with discipline and consistency can be very, very hard indeed. So in this blog I would like to give you the same challenge I gave to the Directors in my workshop, score yourself on a scale of 1 to 10 on the following critical business practices where 10=Strongly Agree, 7=Agree Somewhat, 5=Not Sure, 3=Disagree Somewhat, 1=Strongly Disagree.  And remember…be brutally honest with yourself!

  1. We have a clear vision for the future of our organization that is well communicated to everyone that works for/with us – employees, vendors, suppliers, and customers.
  2. Our organization is filled with very talented people who were highly competent in their jobs.
  3. We have high levels of open, honest, robust communication throughout our entire organization.
  4. There’s a strong sense of urgency throughout our entire organization to get the important things done right away.
  5. People in our organization display a high level of both personal and mutual accountability.
  6. Our organization is superb at executing effectively on our plans and goals.
  7. We do a superior job of creating strong relationships with our customers.
  8. We have a tight handle on our finances and understand exactly how cash moves through our business.
  9. We have a unique and defendable position in the marketplace because we add real and significant value to our customers.
  10. We have an excellent organizational culture where people truly enjoy the work they do, the people they work with, and serving our customers.

 *** Here’s the way I look at it, if you’re not scoring and 8, 9 or 10 on every single one of these items – then you’ve got some work to do. If you find yourself with a lot of scores of 5 or less – you got some VERY serious work to do.

Now, I know that as you look over that list you’re probably telling yourself that you know all of that is important for running a successful business – you’ve heard it 1,000 times in books, audio books seminars and meetings… but it’s one thing to know this stuff – and something completely different to go out and do it every single day in your business. Here are two more old clichés to close this blog:

“People judge you by your actions, not by your intentions.”

“Who you are speaks so loudly I cannot hear what you say.”

I hope you found this article of value, as always I welcome your questions, comments and feedback and hope that you will send a link to this post on to anyone you feel might find value in the ideas I share. Thanks so much – take good care – John Spence


PS – if you have not yet watched the recent video I posted “The REAL Secrets to Success” I strongly urge you to take 34 minutes and go through it. I have gotten incredible positive feedback from all over the world on this video – Iceland, UK, France, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Latin America and all across the United States. I think it has some extremely valuable ideas in it that could have a dramatic positive impact on your life and career. Here is a link to watch that video if you have not seen it yet: The REAL Secrets to Success.


  1. More good stuff, John!

    Ironically, I’m finding that people KNOW about the Knowing Doing Gap – but often don’t know how to DO something about this gap.

    I think this is more evidence of making process-orientation into a content thing (If I know ABOUT the gap – content – something will magically change about the process of crossing the gap). In other words, KNOWING about the gap can get in the way of DOING the process of crossing it!

  2. Brilliant stuff John

    I’m just away to deliver this to my clients. You are bang on the money here and it comes down to being upfront with my performance and not making excuses. Got to get ABOVE THE LINE and not make excuses. Take responsibilty. I love the 2 x last 1 x liners. Very Useful.

  3. In your second quote, shouldn’t it be “Who you are . . .” rather than “What you are . . .”?

  4. Barbara – you are correct – I have changed it — thank you!