If I had a magical organizational wand, I would turn old toady CEOs into beautiful princes and princesses who champion the causes of their workers. Unfortunately, there’s not enough magic from Oz to convince most executives that today’s workers are more than mechanical parts to their profit machine. During this discussion, we will explore the concept of knowledge workers in organizations.
Some employees feel they are often undervalued and unappreciated by their managers. For example, my friend, Stan, is a very intelligent person in spite of not attending college. He accepted a new job as warehouse operator. Because of downsizing, he became the only person in that department. Stan created his own cataloging system without a computer. That was impressive.
When Stan was up for a raise, he asked for more money. His supervisor explained that it couldn’t be done. My friend countered that he had optimized their warehouse systems, and the operations depended on his knowledge. His supervisor knew it was true because when Stan wasn’t there, no one could find anything.
Stan got what he wanted. He had become a knowledge commodity. This represents the revolution of knowledge workers on the traditional organizational structure. Therefore, if today’s leaders don’t adequately manage the knowledge workforce, they will be at a competitive disadvantage.
Knowledge workers are a critical commodity. Gareth Morgan, author of Imagination, argues that contemporary use of organizational charts and diagrams are major tools for restructuring. However, this creates a false sense that a new organizational chart can solve all of the organization’s problems. Modern-day bosses feel that “top down” management is best. Clearly, they are mistaken.
Georg Krogh, Kazuo Ichijo, and Ikujiro Nonaka, authors of Enabling Knowledge Creation, maintain that knowledge management (KM) is not one person’s job; everyone in organizations can play a vital role in transferring information. As a rule, an organization’s knowledge and capacity building depends primarily on its human and social capital. In most contemporary organizations, technology can be a critical tool in supporting the knowledge work.
Yet, knowledge workers create and capture information for the management of knowledge. In fact, KM is performed by individuals who belong to communities of interest where knowledge is shared and accumulated. Therefore, effective management of today’s operations depends on talented and gifted knowledge workers.
How do today’s organizations better engage knowledge workers due an era of sweeping layoffs and outsourcing?
© 2010 by Daryl D. Green