Last time in this space, we discussed the power of appreciation. Let’s explore another primal human need—the need to answer the question, “how am I doing?”
It starts early. Watch a small child doing something new: she will be looking anxiously at a parent to see if the action brings praise or censure. As we mature, we start looking inside ourselves more than to authority figures to answer the question. Sometimes, our conscience or our “gut” provides us all we need to know. But other times, we need data.
Sports and games are all about providing feedback. Our golf scores, our lap times, how much Monopoly money we have, a perfect 10, all provide us unambiguous data to assess our performance. Whether we choose to benchmark against ourselves (as I do as a lousy golfer) or against others (as I do at the racetrack), we get satisfaction from knowing where we stand. And we use that data to motivate ourselves to improve.
Note that I’m not just talking about winning, and the sense of achievement this brings. Win, place, or show, we want to know the score—literally. Who would ever play a video game where you couldn’t see the points?
A recent excellent Wired cover story on using feedback to modify behavior got me thinking about this, and how much more we could do with feedback in our KM initiatives. One example it cited: radar-equipped speed limit signs—the kind that tell you how fast you’re driving—reduce speeds in school zones, even more than cops writing tickets.
The author, Thomas Goetz, suggests that there are four requirements to make feedback effective at changing behavior. Let’s see how we can apply them in the support center:
- Evidence: quantifying the behavior. For KCS, these are the activity measures—each support staffer should be constantly reminded of his or her participation rate, create rate, edit rate, case closure rate, article quality index, escalation rate, or metrics on other behaviors we care about.
- Relevance: providing context. For activities, these would be historical trends and team averages. (As readers of this blog surely know, we would never put goals on activities.)
- Consequences: the larger goal or purpose. Show outcomes like net promoter score, renewal rates, or self-service success, because these outcomes are the reason we’re performing the activities. Also, include knowledge performance as part of employees’ performance reviews. This ties individual action and accountability to the organization’s mission.
- Action: closing the loop. This is where the support staffer decides to be more diligent about capturing, reusing, and improving knowledge—not because he needs to achieve a quota, but because he wants to narrow the gap between himself and high performers on the team, or he wants to be part of the team’s success.
This is all pretty basic stuff, but how often do we even get through step one? Is your team constantly reminded of their knowledge performance?
Make sure everyone on your team knows the answer to the question, “how am I doing?” And most of them will return the favor by making the response, “Better than ever before, thanks.”