Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Visual performance indicators for knowledge workers

I think it was Peter Drucker who first coined the term “knowledge worker”. It is now a term we know and understand well. At least, we understand vaguely what we mean by a knowledge worker – someone who does something that we don’t quite understand. Knowledge workers are a difficult group to manage, as their output is often long term, difficult to measure and not totally understood by whoever is “managing” them. I say “managing” them, because so much has to be done on trust and on outcomes, some of which will be influenced by a myriad of different factors.

However, employee engagement and job satisfaction has been shown to rise when people clearly understand the organisation’s mission, and are actively involved in improving performance: whatever level in the organisation, and whatever the work.

So the key is to ensure that appropriate and visual performance indicators are displayed for people to see, challenge, discuss and use in their work. Without that engagement it is too easy to allow people to slip into thinking that no-one cares, no-one is watching and no-one is interested, which is mostly very far from the truth.

Of course, creating good visual performance indicators requires careful thinking, but it can and is done very successfully by many companies who understand how important it is to keep everyone engaged.


  1. Hi Caroline,

    Your post reminded me about people who work in a business carrying out search engine optimisation (SEO). This is one of the new 'knowledge worker' jobs that many people regard somewhat suspiciously because what they do is not immediately tangible and takes a long time (months often) to bear fruit.

    But, it is measurable and, thus, can produce good results if done well which includes being tied directly into an organisations' strategy.

  2. Caroline

    There is as you say real value ensuring our experts (not a fan of knowledge workers sounds ...)are aligned to strategy.

    Great example today when expert was talking to me about how his actions were delivering the strategy map! All it takes is to recognise where the business's destination is, how to get there and get everyone engaged ...easier said than done i know but magical when it like a fire is self sustaining and only needs feeding.

    All the best

  3. Aligning to strategy is indeed a key to engaging experts or knowledge workers, or indeed anyone. I guess its just a little bit harder when the job is more investigative and open-ended.

    And absolutely SEO is measureable. I've heard some real horror stories recently of people who don't believe they should attempt to question or measure this type of work.

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