I come from a long line of gardeners and I’ve learned a lot from my parents and grandparents. Some is very straight-forward. Plants need three basic things to grow – water, nutrients and sunlight. I also learned that plants need more than the basics to thrive. They need care and tending. That care and tending depends on where I live and what I am planting (in New Orleans, my bougainvillea does best when I ignore it completely).
Knowledge sharing is a lot like gardening. There are fundamental changes we must adopt within our organization so that the knowledge we share doesn’t just do an adequate job, it does a great job. These changes are best measured by looking at staff adoption of knowledge sharing practices. We also need to measure how well the team is buying in to the benefits of sharing their knowledge – our staff engagement measure. But there is another area that we need to measure and improve – knowledge quality. Is knowledge easy to find and easy to consume? Is it accurate and up-to-date? Knowledge quality is more than just a checklist, though.
Knowledge quality is a proxy for the perspective of the person who is going to reuse our knowledge
Most of our measures are about our team. How well are they adopting knowledge sharing practices? Do they get how important knowledge sharing is to the team? Knowledge quality is about the next person who is going to consume the knowledge. Does the formatting make the content easy to consume? Are there spelling or grammar mistakes that detract from understanding the content? Is it easy to determine if the knowledge applies to me and my specific need?
The upshot of this focus on the consumer of knowledge is that what makes high-quality knowledge varies. It depends on who is consuming it. Sharing a quick procedure with a colleague should be judged on a different set of standards than a report to the board of directors.
As for measuring knowledge quality, there is a three-step process for creating the measure.
1. Determine who will consume your knowledge and what they consider to be necessary for quality. Are they willing to trade off grammar for getting knowledge faster? Are there specific privacy considerations that must be in place for high quality knowledge (for example, no patient-identifiable information)?
2. Create a checklist based on these needs and familiarize the team with the checklist
3. Provide feedback to team members on the knowledge they create. Are they hitting the quality checkpoints? Are they improving? Some organizations have a formal coaching program around quality (see the Knowledge Centered Support practices guide for a tremendous model). Others provide feedback through spot-checks by managers or dedicated knowledge team members.
How are you measuring quality? Do you define your knowledge quality checklist from your perspective or from the perspective of the person reusing your knowledge?