How KM gives benchmarking a purpose

KM can add purpose to internal benchmarking, by using it to drive knowledge sharing

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Many commercial organisations track internal KPIs.  They publish league tables of the different departments, and differentiate the high performers, and the poor performers.

But Why? What’s the point? Surely not just to shame the poor performers, and make the high performers feel smug?

The answer is that by identifying the poor performers, you can also identify what each area of the business needs to focus on, and can give them a measure of how much they could (and need to) improve.

But they won’t make the improvement, if they don’t know how.

Benchmarking on its own is just a labelling exercise. It tells the departments where they need to improve, but it doesn’t help them learn how to improve.

This brings us to the second purpose of benchmark, which is to map out the knowledge transfer that needs to happen within the organisation.

Benchmarking shows where performance of a team or unit is weak compared to other teams or units, and therefore need to learn. It also shows which other teams or units are stronger performers, and so can be sources of knowledge. The strong performers can help the weaker performers, and benchmarking identifies which are which.

Managers can also use benchmarking to set targets and drive the learning –

“the factory in Poland uses 20% less energy than you do – I want you learn from them, and close the gap halfway by year end”.  

“Slough uses 80% of the packaging that you do – learn from them, and close the gap halfway by year end”.

In all of this, Knowledge Management is the enabler.

Target setting creates the driver for knowledge sharing, while measurement and benchmarking define the suppliers of and customers for knowledge. Knowledge Management closes the gap, enabling the production units to learn from Slovenia, from Slough, from Syracuse. The mechanism of learning may be by site learning visits, by Peer Assist, by creating Knowledge Assets or training courses, or through the operation of Communities of Practice. The poor performers will improve, and also the good performers learn a thing or two as well.

Link your internal benchmarking with a Knowledge Management campaign, and you can improve performance across the board.

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Shared by: Nick Milton

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