Knowledge Management Metrics – Focusing on What’s Important

Do you measure what's important or do you just measure?

When considering what to measure related to Knowledge Management, it is important to ensure that we measure the right things. The biggest challenge is, of course, to know exactly what are those “right things.” But it’s easier than you may think to find those right things to measure.

Multiple studies conducted (by Delphi, KPMG, Gartner) identified specific key benefits of KM initiatives, resulting in the following organizational improvements:

  • Enhanced and improved decision making
  • Responsiveness to customers and better customer handling
  • Efficiency of people and the organization
  • Innovation
  • Products/Services
  • Faster and better responses to key business issues
  • Productivity improvements

With those typical benefits of KM initiatives in mind, consider as a KM metrics “starting point” the measurement of those benefits, keeping in mind that knowledge should be providing value-adding contribution to all of the above and the bigger organizational picture. So look for the impact of that value-adding contribution and then measure that.

KM metrics must also be uniquely adapted to each organization to best suit both their KM strategy and its current state of “Knowledge Management Strategy Maturity Levels.”

When considering your KM metrics, one critical point to keep in mind is that EVERY organization actually needs to have two distinctly different kinds of KM metrics:

  1. Those that determine the impact/benefit/value of the KM implementation (the results).
  2. Those that examine the implementation of KM itself and that which impacts the implementation (i.e., progress, status, budget availability, culture shift, etc.).

Those measures are needed to ensure that the KM implementation is achieving the right results and that the KM implementation itself is making progress and on track.

Directly related to Knowledge Management implementation strategy what I’ve learned over the years is that in its early stages KM implementation needs to have measures that:

  1. Drive alignment of KM efforts to organizational strategy.
  2. Determine the level of acceptance of KM within the organization.
  3. Demonstrate the behavioral changes necessary to support both Organizational Learning and Knowledge Management.

Lacking measures that connect KM implementation to organizational strategy will most often doom the organization’s KM efforts. If there is no alignment between KM and the organizational strategy, then there is little likelihood that the “KM” that is taking place supports what needs to be achieved (or even that it needs to exist). Failure to measure acceptance of KM within the organization may result in the lack of any real support of KM initiatives (seniors claim they support or believe in KM, but there is really nothing to show for that). And neglect the measurement of behavioral changes necessary to support Organizational Learning/Knowledge Management, and you won’t successfully drive the necessary types of learning and the application of what is learned – learning leads to new knowledge, and new knowledge provides for learning opportunities and a failure to get new knowledge and to learn from that is to the detriment of organizational innovations.

Unfortunately, many organizations fail to measure the right things. They fail to focus on what’s important – the reason(s) that they took on implementation of knowledge management in the first place. Instead they simply measure what is available. Measuring outputs instead of outcomes and intended results. Focus is upon lagging (what’s happened) rather than leading (what will happen) metrics.

Dr. Dan's Daily Dose:
Key to successful Knowledge Management implementation is having in place the right metrics. Failure to measure those and you will have no idea of your KM efforts are moving in the right direction or if they even have the resources needed to achieve objectives (assuming you even know what those are!). Successful KM implementation requires having in place metrics that focus on what is important to the organization and what is needed to achieve KM goals.
About Dr. Dan Kirsch