- Both are management systems for dealing with intangibles.
- Both are leaps in thinking from treating safety/knowledge as something personal, to treating it as something of company priority
- Both require introduction of a framework, including roles, processes, governance, and technology support
- Both need to be introduced as change programs.
- Both deliver step changes in performance.
However all analogies break down somewhere, and one of the major differences between KM and Safety Management is that a safety incident is very visible; as lost time, or as an injury. A lost time incident is far more visible than a lost knowledge incident. Therefore safety management is easier to implement, because the outcomes are so visible, and performance metrics can easily be captured and shared.
However, intangible metrics are used in Safety are only recorded because people take time to record them, and one of the things they record are the near misses and the "high potential events" (times when things COULD have gone horribly wrong. These events and near misses themselves don't result in accidents or injury, but are a leading indicator, and show that safety processes are not being applied. An equivalent leading indicator in KM would be the number of lessons with closed-out actions in a learning system, or the number of questions answered in a community forum - indicators that knowledge processes are or are not being applied. So although we cannot capture a "lost knowledge incident" we can at least record whether the right questions are being asked, or the right observations and insights shared.
Indirect outcome-based metrics can be applied to knowledge management, the ultimate output being continuous business performance improvement. This does not directly measure knowledge, but indicates the effect of the application of knowledge. See my blog post on learning curves, and our website page on valuation of KM.