I’m Impatient with the Pseudo-action Deceptions

I like to finish things. Get “Done”. Some might say I’m impatient to finish things. But not everybody is like that. Many people suffer from the various Pseudo-action Deceptions, i.e. thinking rather than doing.

Pfeffer and Sutton (2000) identified factors that contribute to the Knowing-Doing Gap. This is where somebody knows what needs doing but hasn’t actually done anything. The Pseudo-action Deceptions particularly resonated with me as I’ve seen countless people demonstrate these behaviours, or lack of behaviours, and I find it very annoying.

Pseudo-action Deceptions

  • Thinking that knowing is sufficient for success.
  • Thinking that talking (meetings, committees, reports, etc.) is action.
  • Thinking that measuring things is action or contributes to performance.
  • Thinking that making a decision is the same as taking action.
  • Thinking that planning is the same as action.

Thinking is not doing. Thinking is useful but only so far as it helps get to “Done”.


Pfeffer, J. and Sutton, R. (2000). The Knowing-Doing Gap: How Smart Companies Turn Knowledge into Action. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publications.

3 thoughts on “I’m Impatient with the Pseudo-action Deceptions

  1. “Do or do not… there is no try.” — Yoda
    One of my favorite quotes! Pretty much says it all.

  2. But reporting progress is helping get things done, right?
    How would you cope as a pilot without your dashboard instrumentation? How would you cope as a programme manager if your project managers didn’t give status reports/updates of some kind?
    ‘Thinking is useful but only so far as it helps get to “Done”’
    So what ratio would you apply on your efforts? On an agile programme is it worth running RAID logs or RACI matrices, or do we just get the working software deved, demoed and deployed?

    • I report progress – can’t avoid it. I keep a RAID log – I find it useful. Neither directly helps the developers build stuff but that is okay if I act on what I put in the status report and/or RAID log. Just reporting, just logging, is not sufficient. These PM tools are calls to action – it is the action that is important, not the tool.

Comments are closed.