How knowledge and performance are linked
There is a very close link between knowledge and performance, which is at the heart of any KM framework.
Knowledge results in performance. The more knowledge we have, the better we can perform. The more we learn from performance, the more knowledge we have. This puts us in a reinforcement cycle – a continuous improvement loop – continuously improving knowledge, continuously improving performance.
We are all well aware of this link as it applies to us as individuals. The more we learn about something, the better we get, whether this is learning to speak Mandarin, or learning to ride a bicycle. The knowledge builds up in our heads and in our legs and fingertips, and forms an asset we can draw on.
It’s much harder to make this link for a team, or for an organization. How do we make sure the organization learns from performance and from experience? How do we collect or store that knowledge for future access, especially when the learning takes place in many teams, many sites or many countries? How do we access the store of knowledge when it is needed, given that much of it may still be in peoples’ heads?
This link, between knowledge and performance, is fundamental to the concept of knowledge management. Knowledge management, at its simplest, is ensuring this loop is closed, and applied in a systematic and managed way, so that the organisation can continuously learn and continually improve performance. The knowledge manager should
- Know what sort of organisational performance needs to be improved or sustained (and in some organisations this may not be easy – the performance requirements of public sector organisations, for example, may not always be easy to define);
- Know what knowledge is critical to that performance;
- Develop a system whereby that knowledge is managed, developed and made available;
- Develop a culture where people will seek for that knowledge, and re-use and apply it;
- Develop work habits and skills that ensure performance is analysed, and that new knowledge is gained from that performance (using processes such as lesson learning or After Action reviews);
- Set up a workflow to ensure that the body of knowledge is updated with this new knowledge; and
- Be able to measure both the flow of knowledge through this loop, and also the impact this has on performance.
That’s KM at its simplest; a closed cycle of continuous learning and continuous performance improvement.
The complexities come in getting this loop up and running, in a sustainable way, in the crazy complex pressurised world of organisational activity.
But that’s what they pay us Knowledge Managers for, right? Dealing with those complexities. Designing the framework that closes the loop. Delivering the value.
Ensuring that knowledge drives performance, and that performance results in new knowledge.
Tags: framework, value