Steven's Notebook

Look Ma - No Hands!

Knowledge Management Metrics

…plans to implement knowledge management often require prior exercises in changing corporate culture, moving employees from a gatekeeper culture, where knowledge is kept hidden and produced only when it can enhance the employee’s value, to a sharing culture, where knowledge sharing is encouraged and rewarded.

This is absolutely true, without a doubt. The other half of my job (when I’m not being a Perl programmer) is bringing teams in my company into the Knowledge-Centered world. Over and over we see groups – managers of groups, really – take the “tool” approach. “It’s just a tool, we can give 20 minutes of training and they’ll be ready.”

Bzzzt. Wrong answer.

Just as installing Excel won’t make me an accountant, installing a KM application won’t give me the skills and culture that are needed to truely share knowledge. Neither will simply handing them a weblogging tool, I’m afraid.

For employees to really share their knowledge requires some “cultural” properties not present in most companies:

  • Everyone needs to realize that sharing of knowledge is not only of value for the company but also to themselves, and that sharing what you know is more important than the knowledge itself. In most situations, we’re valued for what we have and what we know. If you want to know how to work the frumple machine, you need to come ask me. That makes me feel important, valued. And I know that I won’t be fired because of that knowledge – if you let me go then the frumple will never work properly again.
  • They need to be recognized for the contribution their sharing makes. If I share some knowledge about frumpling with you, then you get a bonus because you’re more productive… I’m never going to share with you again. You got the brownie for my effort and I’m not gonna let myself get burnt by that twice.This almost always means that “metrics” need to change. If you’re in a helpdesk or call center, for example, and you’re measuring your people on the number of calls they’re taking, that’s what they’re going to do – take calls. If you want them to share what they’re learning from those calls, you need to find a way to measure them on it. Don’t, though, just fall into the trap of measuring them on the numer of “solutions” they capture. That’s a great way to fill a database with useless information. Defining metrics is one of the most difficult parts of the whole task.

More on this later. (Later came on 2002-01-26)

aside: J.Robb refers to the use of weblogging software for Knowledge Management as K-Logs.

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