KM Metrics LO21895

Mark W. McElroy (
Fri, 11 Jun 1999 11:12:54 -0400

Replying to LO21885 --

Fred Nickols wrote:

> From my perspective, the "bottom line" here is that KM metrics are the
> wrong starting point. The proper place to begin is with desired business
> results -- with the business metrics one wishes to affect. The next point
> in the value chain is to identify the operational aspects of the business
> that affect those desired results. The tertiary point is with the ways in
> which people (which is where knowledge is applied) affect the operational
> aspects of the business and, through those, the desired business results.

Fred, I appreciated the depth of your remarks and would like to reply to
only the paragraph copied above.

First, your line of thought has a troubling "business process
reengineering" tone to it. I wonder if that's intentitonal and whether or
not the MBA methodology you spoke of is as linear in its orientation as it
sounds. If there's one thing members of this list have come to appreciate
by now, it's that we live in a nonlinear world and systems thinking tools
and perspectives are far more valuable than the traditional reductionist
view of the world. Your argument is rather reductionist in form, but it's
not clear to me that that's what you, in fact, meant to do. Is it? If
not, how does a methodology like MBA make the distinction between factors
that actually influence change versus those that do not, including factors
that do so disproportionately, or even transparently, thanks to the nature
of complex system dynamics?

This brings me to my own notion of what I call the "KM paradox." The KM
paradox says that while one can directly influence the behavior of a
knowledge production system (the "means" in your scheme, Fred), one
cannot, through such measures, directly influence business results ("ends"
in your scheme). This is attributable to the complexity of human
organizations, and the enormous variety of OTHER variables that conspire
together (with knowledge being only one of them) to cause change in a
decidedly nonlinear fashion. To manipulate only one of them, and to
attribute whatever change that follows to that singular action, is to
engage in a form or self deception that I suspect will not last long.

In general, I agree with the content of your statement (copied above),
but the conspicuous omission of nonlinearity at the level of the whole
system it references troubles me. What say you to that, my friend?


"Mark W. McElroy" <>

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