There is a book I read years ago by Jeffrey Pfeffer & Robert Sutton called The Knowing-Doing Gap: How Smart Companies Turn Knowledge into Action. What I learned from this book makes me laugh from time to time because I still find myself with a lot of knowledge and know-how, and no plan of action to put it in play. I would make a bet that many of you find this in your business and personal lives as well.

The real questions is: once you realize that you have the knowledge, how then do you create an action plan that puts that knowledge to work? I have found something that works for me again and again, and wish I knew or remembered where I got it from (but have no clue at this point). I just thought I would share it here and see if anyone else has any experience with this technique I call the 5 W’s.

It’s simple and it works on everything I have tested it with, every time — including marketing and business. The 5 are Who, What, When, Where & Why. That’s how I remember them, but it’s not the order I use. The order I find most useful is: Why, What, Who, When & Where.


If you are a reader of self-help or business books, I am sure you have read or heard someone say “finding your why” is the key to “financial freedom,” “business success,” or maybe even “eternal happiness.” I’m a bit more practical than that, and I say find out WHY you want, need, or feel you should do something so you don’t waste your time. If you don’t know WHY you are doing something then you shouldn’t be doing it.

The WHY also needs to be detailed and defined, just like any business goal would be. “I need help” or “I need time” is not a defined goal. “I need to start working on my business and not always in my business so I can create more than just a job for myself” is a well-defined WHY.


Now that your WHY is defined as wanting a business and not just a job you can start figuring out WHAT to do to get there. Will hiring an office manager, a new technician, or both get you there? This is a key part of figuring out exacting WHAT you need to do to get to your why. Once you have the WHAT figured out the next 3 W’s are for execution.


If you are the only person in your business, then the WHO may very well be you. However, if you have hired people or other businesses to help you do certain things, or you need to hire a person or business to help you, then one of them could be the WHO. The key here is to be honest with yourself when determining if you are the right WHO for the task at hand. If you are and you have the time and energy, then the decision is made. If not, then you need to hire someone to help you with carrying out the task(s). That might mean contracting a hiring manager, a business consultant, or a marketing company. The key is to hire the right WHO for the task at hand.

It is here where most of us make the biggest mistakes. It may take more the one WHO to carry out the WHAT. In the example above, you may need all three (a hiring manager, a business consultant, and a marketing company) to get to the place where your business is more than a job. But once you know WHO you need to do the WHAT that gets you to your WHY, then you can move on to WHEN and WHERE.

When & Where

WHEN and WHERE go together, as this is the action phase. You will want to define WHEN and WHERE to take action to get your WHY accomplished. This could be a onetime action or a series of action steps that have multiple WHEN’s and WHERE’s. It all depends on the WHY you established in the beginning.

Understandably, it’s easy to get lost in any of these steps, and I do believe your WHY has to be important enough to keep you focused. If you lose your way, then reevaluate your WHY and figure out if it’s strong enough or really that important. You may also need to reevaluate your WHO, and see if this is where the breakdown occurred. The vast majority of the time, it’s one of these two pieces that needs changing.

In the meantime, if you find yourself frustrated about your business not moving forward, ask yourself if you are doing the things you know how to do and thus should be doing or if you’re falling victim to the knowing-doing gap. The next steps are up to you.