KM and productivity

Dana Dolan makes reference to a recent InformationWeek article on tying collaboration to productivity:

"Until we show our people how collaboration and productivity tools can close more sales or help us meet more deadlines or build better products, they'll pay only lip service to this stuff." says Rob Preston, VP/Editor In Chief at InformationWeek.

Dana then follows with what he sees are two outcomes this approach: 1) no one publishes their criteria, people can't find out what works and what doesn't.  2) Results are published, but they are so situation-dependent that they cannot be translated to other environments.  Then Dana asks for input:

If you were involved in a successful collaboration project, would you take Rob's advice? Does this mean collaboration requires a leap of faith?

Knowledge management projects and many other changes within business run into this same problem.  I don't have the answer, of course, but the discussion makes me think of Theory of Constraints the power of simplifying these discussions about ROI.  The decision process should be simple:

  • How much will throughput increase due to this change (throughput = sales - totally variable costs)?
  • How much will actual costs change due to this change?  (Note: saving a man-month doesn't count unless you plan on firing someone.)
  • How much investment will we need to institute this change?

One could ask the questions from the negative perspective: What is the impact on profits, costs, and investment if we don't institute the change? 

Another way to look at this is to use Goldratt's idea that "technology is only beneficial if and only if it diminishes a limitation."  I think the statement can be broadened to "an intervention is only beneficial if and only if it diminishes a limitation."   Goldratt breaks this further into four questions:

  1. What is the power of the technology?
  2. What limitation(s) will it diminish?
  3. What rules were followed because of the limitation?
  4. What new rules should be followed now?

It is in the discussion of the limitation that you can make a connection to how the technology (or the intervention) will impact the business.  And it's in the discussion of the rules that you begin to see the nature of everything else that needs to change to realize the power of the intervention.

Eclectic Bill has written about this in more detail, TOC Analysis of Technology.

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