“Once long ago all animals lived in harmony. There was no strife among them, and they were able to speak together in a common language. At that time mysterious and wonderful events took place, and the noble unicorn dwelt with the other animals in the lower lands. Men believed the unicorn was immortal. They hunted him relentlessly, for it was said that his horn possessed magical powers. At last the unicorn was forced to flee high up in the mountains to escape the hunters’ arrows. His vanishing caused magic to pass from the land. Soon all living things forgot the unicorn, and animals lost the power to speak to others unlike themselves.” ["The Unicorn and the Lake" by Marianna Mayer]
I was having some off-line discussions related to KM metrics, as well as how to determine which KM initiatives make for the “best” for initial implementation, etc. And somewhere in those discussions we wandered smack into the middle of discussing why it seems that so many initial KM efforts have “problems.” And then at about the same time I received this absolute gem from Hubert Saint-Onge:
“When I was Senior Vice President of Strategic Capability at Clarica, I had to present my business plan on a quarterly basis to the CEO. In addition to knowledge management and learning, my portfolio included strategic planning, internal and external communication, human resources, and corporate branding. In other words, the full basket of intangibles.
The CFO attended these meetings and kept bringing up the measurement question. I was always able to side step the issue. One day, he became more vociferous than usual on the need to measure all this crap — in his words. Luckily, I had many opportunities to practice an answer. I said that I admired his passion for measuring and that I would like to take his lead on this matter. I promised right there that if he would share with me how he was measuring his organization’s finance and actuarial work was adding value to the company, I would right away adopt and apply this framework to the activities I was responsible for.
He looked at me dumb-founded. It had never occurred to him that he should measure what was considered conventional activities in the company: it’s that new so-called ‘crap’ we needed to measure. Isn’t it interesting that we put the onus of measurement on what is new when we have pile upon pile we don’t measure because it is just so. As all of us who have worked on this for decades, measuring the impact of growing intangible assets on the bottom line is no easy feat. It certainly cannot be trivialized because sometimes having wrong answers is worse than having no answer.”