Introduction to Knowledge – Understanding – Action The RapidBI approach to Change

Introduction to KUA™

Knowledge -> Understanding -> Action

Knowledge leads to Understanding which can be applied into effective Action

is the process and principles that RapidBI base all of our programs, products and development upon.

We recommend that when starting any OD or change intervention that you follow this simple, yet effective process:

  • KNOWLEDGE – learn the principles, underpinning information and concepts
  • UNDERSTANDING – from that knowledge develop your understanding of what is meant and what it might mean in your context or environment.
  • ACTION – to do – to do something practical with that knowledge, put it into action.

When we have KNOWLEDGE it can lead to UNDERSTANDING which if managed effectively can lead to more effective ACTION.

This means that before we do anything we need to KNOW where we are (as an organization) and what is happening.With KNOWLEDGE it is easier to UNDERSTAND what is going on and why, so any ACTION proposed or undertaken is more effective.


The Challenge to everyone involved  in organizational development

In the 1980s and 1990s the challenge was building organizational mechanisms and appropriate infrastructure for managing knowledge. The challenge of the 21st century is gaining, shaping and utilising that knowledge in a way that binds it to effective action. 

Red – Amber – Green

On our roads we are used to traffic lights or signals where:

Red = Stop/ caution
Amber = Caution
Green = Proceed with caution

Our colouring of the
KNOWLEDGE = This may be very interesting but it is only one step – STOP do not do anything with this knowledge or information
UNDERSTANDING = Caution, what might this mean for me/ our organization. What is the meaning of the knowledge in OUR CONTEXT.
ACTION = Proceed with caution, check on a regular basis that the way is clear and we are getting the feedback we expected.

Remember, just like a traffic signal at green, it can change to amber at any time – meaning that we need to stop the action and clarify our understanding.

READ  Managing Change in Organizations

Knowledge can be said to be:

  • The state or fact of knowing.
  • Familiarity, awareness, or understanding gained through experience or study.
  • The sum or range of what has been perceived, discovered, or learned.
  • Learning; erudition: teachers of great knowledge.
  • Specific information about something.

The Oxford University Press says of this:

“This English word, which usually implies an erudition open to those who seek it, inadequately translates Celtic conceptions of knowing, which often imply esoteric, metaphysical perception. Among the Celts knowledge is inspired rather than being acquired gradually.”

This is an interesting take on the word in the context of OD, where we know that knowledge is more than simply acquisition of learning, but something which has an element of EQ (Emotional Quotient) or instinct attached. Indeed this is one reason why traditional knowledge management fails as it often attempts to treat knowledge as data alone.


Understanding is often defined as:

  • The quality or condition of one who understands; comprehension.
  • The faculty by which one understands; intelligence.
  • Individual or specified judgment or outlook; opinion.
  • A compact implicit between two or more people or groups.
  • A disposition to appreciate or share the feelings and thoughts of others; sympathy.
  • Characterised by or having comprehension, good sense, or discernment.
  • Compassionate; sympathetic.

The Oxford University Philosophy Dictionary says:

“To have a concept, word, or a picture, or any other object (or idea) in one’s mind seems to be one thing, but to understand it is quite another.
A major target of the later work of Wittgenstein is the suggestion that this understanding is achieved by a further presence, so that words might be understood if they are accompanied by ideas, for example; Wittgenstein insists that the extra presence merely raises the same kind of problem again. The better suggestion is that understanding is to be thought of as possession of a technique, or skill, and this is the point of the slogan that ‘meaning is use’. The idea is congenial to pragmatism and hostile to ineffable and incommunicable understandings.”

Action is

  • The state or process of acting or doing: The medical team went into action.
  • Something done or accomplished; a deed.
  • The causation of change by the exertion of power or a natural process
  • A movement or a series of movements
  • The series of events and episodes that form the plot of a story or play.
  • The most important or exciting work or activity in a specific field or area: always heads for where the action is.

From the Oxford University Press:

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“Any unit or sequence of social activity or behaviour. The term is sometimes restricted to social activities, which are intentional and involve conscious deliberation, rather than merely being the result of a behavioural reflex.”

“No action is without its side effects.” – Barry Commoner, biologist and environmentalist.


Ready – Fire – Aim

Knowledge – Understanding and Action is a simple yet effective model for organizational development and change.

This model is a little like the analogy – Ready, Aim, Fire, for guns and crossbows. The order of:

get ready, take aim and fire at the target works very well – but try “Ready, Fire, Aim” and you will not get the same results.

Indeed sometimes you may want an ‘unexpected result – however if you are not aiming at least in the direction the organizational strategy requires you will at best just be wasting effort, and at worst changing the strategic direction of the organization without fully understanding the implications.

Note – Knowledge-Understanding-Action™ & © RapidBI & Mike Morrison 1998

First published June 2004

About Mike Morrison

Mike Morrison is founder of RapidBI
Mike is a consultant and change agent specialising in developing skills in senior people to increase organizational performance.
Mike is also founder & director of RapidBI, an organizational effectiveness consultancy.
Check out his linkedin profile


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