Tuesday, 23 February 2010


Performance metrics, KM and asparagus



Asparagus picking
Originally uploaded by net_efekt

In this post I asked the questions - "What if there are no measures of performance? How will you know if any one approach is better than another, and worth replicating? How will you see the learning curves, without metrics? How can you plan to improve, with no targets? What will incentivise people to learn from each other, if performance is not a driver"?

I was reminded of this yesterday, reading an article on KM and the Peruvian Asparagus Cooperative (by Luis Chang, in Pauleen, "cross-cultural perspectives on knowledge management". This is a story of how the asparagus growers of Peru began to collaborate, firstly to build a shared refrigeration facility, and secondly to exchange knowledge of processing and aircraft loading, so that the slow loaders didn't hold the others back.

Hidden in there, are some really important observations on the link between performance metrics, and KM. I quote -

"Knowledge Management experience in many settings has shown us that trying to
quantify productive knowledge is virtually* impossible, but charting the
positive outcomes that knowledge generates is both possible and useful, because
it shows where productive knowledge resides, and which practices deserve to be
widely adopted"


Like I said above, if you have measures ("charting the positive outcomes"), you know if one approach is better than another, and worth replicating ("deserve to be widely adopted"). In Peru, this happens as follows

"Each partner company receives daily information .... the reports blank out the
names of all the other partners, so each recipient sees his rank and detailed
quality on quality without knowing which of the other companies occupy the other
lines. For partners that score significantly below the others, the reports who,
first and foremost, that the work can be done more effectively and efficiently.
This objective proof of superior performance helps overcome a principal barrier
to convincing experienced professionals to adopt new practices - that is, the
belief that they are already doing the right thing and that their current
results are the best that anyone can expect"

I would like to repeat that last bit, because it's really really key

Objective proof of superior performance helps overcome a principal barrier to convincing experienced professionals to adopt new practices - that is, the belief that they are already doing the right thing and that their current results are the best that anyone can expect

That's the link that I was talking about in the other post, when I asked "What if there are no measures of performance? How will you know if any one approach is better than another, and worth replicating? What will incentivise people to learn from each other, if performance is not a driver"

A final quote from the paper to summarise the point

"Knowledge management experience in a range of settings has shown that clear
evidence of better performance helps motivate adoption of best practices"


In other words, if you know for sure that your performance sucks, you have no excuse for not learining. And the caveat is, that if you have no metrics, you will never know your performance sucks, and you may very well continue in blissful ignorance of how poor you are.








*virtually, but not completely. There are some very well metricated settings where it is possible.

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