Knowledge Management

Why KPIs are not the answer for complex systems (part 1)

There's a saying in politics: "When you are sick to the teeth of repeating a message, people are just starting to hear it". By that yardstick, Simon Guilfoyle would make a great politician. For 30 months straight he has maintained a blog with one overriding theme: that numerical targets create dysfunctional behaviour and should be eliminated.

Targets and KPIs are so ingrained into the management mindset that it never occurs to many people to question their necessity. This applied to me too: When I first heard Simon's message, I felt that such a blanket condemnation couldn't be justified. However, after a short conversation with Simon, he completely won me over.

[Read about why Simon's right]

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Our expertise in complex systems analysis, combined with a deep understanding of technology and modern, agile management and leadership techniques makes knowquestion uniquely positioned to find strategic solutions to your tough problems. Contact us today.

TIARA: The essence of a results-only work environment

There is increasing recognition that an employee's performance is rarely determined by how many hours they spend at their desk. While there is a separate discussion on whether it is useful to focus on individual performance at all versus creating a high performing team (the short answer is: it depend), in either case the measures required are similar.

Moving to this type of environment, variously referred to as an activity-based workplace (ABW) or a results-only work environment (ROWE) can be summarised in the TIARA principles:

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Our expertise in complex systems analysis, combined with a deep understanding of technology and modern, agile management and leadership techniques makes knowquestion uniquely positioned to find strategic solutions to your tough problems. Contact us today.

The 7 tests of worthwhile advice

The Chris Argyris book Flawed Advice and the Management Trap: How Managers Can Know When They're Getting Good Advice and When They're Not is an uncomfortable read. Mostly because it pretty much accuses all workers, and particularly managers, of being skillful liars!

But it's difficult to argue with his conclusions. Just one of the tidbits worth printing out and sticking on your wall as a constant reminder is Argyris' 7 tests for whether you are receiving worthwhile advice:

There are three tests for the validity of advice:

1) If implemented correctly, the advice leads to the consequences that it predicts will occur
2) The advice's effectiveness persists so long as no unforeseen conditions interfere, and
3) The advice can be implemented and tested in the world of everyday practice.

There are four tests for the actionability of advice:

1) The advice specifies the detailed, concrete behaviors required to achieve the intended consequences
2) The advice must be crafted in the form of designs that contain causal statements
3) People must have, or be able to be taught, the concepts and skills required to implement those causal statements, and
4) The context in which the advice is to be implemented does not prevent its implementation.

(paraphrased slightly for clarity)

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Our expertise in complex systems analysis, combined with a deep understanding of technology and modern, agile management and leadership techniques makes knowquestion uniquely positioned to find strategic solutions to your tough problems. Contact us today.

ICT is not always a source of productivity

One of the commonly-held beliefs of managers is that productivity improvements can be best done through the development and implementation of new or upgraded ICT systems. The McKell Productivity Report (2012) writes:

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Our expertise in complex systems analysis, combined with a deep understanding of technology and modern, agile management and leadership techniques makes knowquestion uniquely positioned to find strategic solutions to your tough problems. Contact us today.

The Excellence Theory in PR and its relevance to KM

In 2006 James Grunig wrote a lengthy, somewhat self-congratulatory, but compelling summary of his and others' work in researching strategic public relations over four decades, resulting in what is known as the Excellence study.

The resulting article, Furnishing the edifice: Ongoing research on public relations as a strategic management function, is well worth a read. From a Knowledge Management perspective there were some very interesting echoes in some of his conclusions:

Did you know...

Our expertise in complex systems analysis, combined with a deep understanding of technology and modern, agile management and leadership techniques makes knowquestion uniquely positioned to find strategic solutions to your tough problems. Contact us today.

The Three Laws of Employment

Isaac Asimov, the legendary science-fiction author, famously invented the Three Laws of Robotics: a hierarchy of three rules which governed the behaviour of the robots in his stories:

  1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
  2. A robot must obey the orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
  3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

Asimov's laws served a narrative purpose: he needed to move his stories beyond the "Frankenstein" trope of robots turning on their master which was prevalent at the time. By ensuring that robots would always serve the best interests of their human masters (albeit as determined by the robots themselves), the impact of robots on society could be explored without worrying about their destructive capabilities.

[Have we considered the implications of the three Laws of Employment?]

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Our expertise in complex systems analysis, combined with a deep understanding of technology and modern, agile management and leadership techniques makes knowquestion uniquely positioned to find strategic solutions to your tough problems. Contact us today.

Are staff costs or investments?

Do you agree or disagree with this tweet? ("They" refers to an organisation's staff.)


(Hat tip: Henry Blodget)

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Our expertise in complex systems analysis, combined with a deep understanding of technology and modern, agile management and leadership techniques makes knowquestion uniquely positioned to find strategic solutions to your tough problems. Contact us today.

KM is dead ... long live Knowledge Management!

David Griffiths has noted that Knowledge Management is no longer one of the 25 most popular management tools as measured by Bain & Co's biannual Management Tools and Trends survey. In a post titled "Is KM relevant anymore?", David writes:

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Our expertise in complex systems analysis, combined with a deep understanding of technology and modern, agile management and leadership techniques makes knowquestion uniquely positioned to find strategic solutions to your tough problems. Contact us today.

Impersonal trust in organisations

I wrote this brief on impersonal trust in organizations up last year, but somehow forgot to write about it here. I can't take credit for the material, it's based on a doctoral dissertion by Mika Vanhala. However, I've never seen a better treatment on trust and I thought it deserved broader exposure:

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Our expertise in complex systems analysis, combined with a deep understanding of technology and modern, agile management and leadership techniques makes knowquestion uniquely positioned to find strategic solutions to your tough problems. Contact us today.

The difference between trust and authority

For many years, the doctor-patient relationship was simple: they would make a diagnosis, tell you what should be done, and it was expected that you would passively comply (there's a good chap/lass). And why not? After all: they were the experts. What could a layman contribute to solving a problem when the learned doctors had done 10+ years of intensive study to become qualified?

Did you know...

Our expertise in complex systems analysis, combined with a deep understanding of technology and modern, agile management and leadership techniques makes knowquestion uniquely positioned to find strategic solutions to your tough problems. Contact us today.