Sadly, many managers operate under a Tayloristic philosophy where managers “know it all” and followers are only subordinates with little insight or experience. Managers are smarter; therefore, they “lord” over their workers. However, advanced communication technologies and vast access to information by workers make this approach outdated. As we are bombarded with data and information frequently, manage information becomes critical. The backbone of this transformation is knowledge workers.
Knowledge management (KM) relates to an organization’s ability to systematically capture, organize, and store information. When dealing with KM issues, many people focus on intellectual capital or technology issues, rather than the human element. Dr. Jay Liebowitz, author of Addressing the Human Capital Crisis in the Federal Government, argues that knowledge management should be a critical element in an organization’s human capital strategy.
He further noted the cohesiveness of these terms. In an organization, human capital is derived from the “brain power” of fellow employees. This knowledge transfer is done in an organization in several ways, such as lessons learned, best practices, and culture. Therefore, knowledge management and human capital strategies should be tailored to the specific organization.
As a rule, an organization’s knowledge and capability depends primarily on its human and social capital. Knowledge workers create and capture information for the management of knowledge. This situation occurs because today’s workers are more informed than previous generations. However, knowledge workers are driven by different motivational factors than traditional workers.
Many executives are more concerned with managing resources and work processes than dealing with people. In fact, people become just another product to manage in a hectic environment. Yet, Christina Maslach and Michael Leiter suggest that the current organizational paradigm represents the dehumanization of today’s workers. Therefore, today’s managers cannot afford to manage and motivate workers in the same fashion; they must apply new approaches of leadership in order to inspire today’s knowledge workers.
What can US organizations do to maximize the usage of this knowledge workforce?
© 2011 by Daryl D. Green
24 thoughts on “A Knowledge Revolution”
A company can maximize their knowledge workforce by realizing they have one. This can be anyone who is a tool or a useful resource. Peter Drucker defines a knowledge worker as having the following traits:
1.Knowledge worker productivity demands that we ask the question: “What is the task?”
2.It demands that we impose the responsibility for their productivity on the individual knowledge workers themselves. Knowledge workers have to manage themselves.
3.Continuing innovation has to be part of the work, the task and the responsibility of knowledge workers.
4.Knowledge work requires continuous learning on the part of the knowledge worker, but equally continuous teaching on the part of the knowledge worker.
5.Productivity of the knowledge worker is not — at least not primarily — a matter of the quantity of output. Quality is at least as important.
6.Finally, knowledge worker productivity requires that the knowledge worker is both seen and treated as an “asset” rather than a “cost.” It requires that knowledge workers want to work for the organization in preference to all other opportunities.
Drucker, Peter F. Management Challenges of the 21st Century. New York: Harper Business, 1999.
http://www.wikipedia.com. Retrieved on 3/7/2011 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Knowledge_worker
Nice list of knowledge worker traits!
I think managers are still stuck with the old fashioned way of “controlling”, and have not yet accepted the realty that those they manage are intelligent people, who like them are capable of making rational and intelligent decisions. I also believe that managers feel threatened if their employees show the ability of making decisions on their own or figuring solutions to problems without necessarily going to them first. Drucker gives an excellent example in his article “Opportunities to employ newly visible populations are vast and are already being explored, the most obvious example being the outsourcing knowledge work to developing countries with significant populations of knowledge navigators.” To reiterate on this matter I personally feel that the U.S. organizations should try and employ their local employees in countries throughout the world, which are still in need of further education and knowledge. By doing this the U.S. is able to spread out their knowledge workforce to other parts of the world without creating too much of a condensed labor environment at home.
Edersheim, Elizabeth Haas & Wynett, Craig. (November. 2008). “Knowledge Navigator Productivity:
The Dominant Vehicle For Wealth Creation In The 21st Century.” Retrieved from: http://www.druckerinpractice.com/discussion.aspx?d=How%20can%20knowledge%20worker%20productivity%20be%20enhanced?
In response to Riyam’s comments, does spreading our workforce to other countries really solve the issue that manager’s “know it all?” This mentality isn’t just an American one, it’s a global one, therefore, simply spreading our workforce may not, in itself, maximize the usage of their knowledge.
The article says that “managers must apply new approaches of leadership.” The issue with this statement is that while both leaders and managers are important, not all managers make good leaders and vice versa.
“Managers are good at managing, supporting, and challenging their employees; while leaders, focus on establishing the plan and taking the organization on journeys of growth” (Weber, 2011). Each has their own significance to the organization. Perhaps we should stop trying to force them to be one in the same, and instead, should utilize their differences. It’s possible that changing this mindset will in itself, maximize the workforce’s knowledge. The take away, “Don’t lose a good manager by creating a poor leader” (Weber, 2011).
Weber, Liz. Good Managers Are Not Necessarily Good Leaders. iBiz Resources. http://www.familybusinessstrategies.com/articles4/101504g.html. March 8, 2011.
Good points! How do US organizations train workers to be global-minded?
I agree with Riyam’s thought that “managers are still stuck with the old fashioned way of controlling”. The majority of upper level managers think their subordinates are ignorant and incapable of ever being as wonderful as they are. Never mind that most of the time these same subordinates can do their supervisor’s job in a more efficient and effective manner. I believe a lot of this is due to managers’ paranoia that the organization will hire someone who is smarter. This is especially true when managers are of the baby boomer generation and new employees are younger and more technically trained.
In reality, “the one thing employees everywhere (including you) really want is respect” (Reh, 2004). This is more important than ever, especially since most organizations are freezing salaries while expecting employees to do more and more. It is hard to keep employee morale high when managers are bullying and degrading their employees to make themselves feel better. What managers must remember is “you only get work done through others” (Reh, 2004). Without respect that level goes down considerably.
Reh, F. J. (2004, 8 16). All Employees Really Want Is Respect. Retrieved 3 8, 2011, from About.com: http://management.about.com/b/2004/08/16/all-employees-really-want-is-respect.htm
How do we change this paradigm of current managers then?
I would say self-esteem but if an individual gets to a management position without it, there isn’t much anyone can do to help. I think top management needs to implement subordinate to middle management reviews. It’s a two way relationship and most organizations are only concerned with the top –down flow. Unfortunately as subordinates become more educated and trained then reigning supervisors the current review system doesn’t work.
Organizations also need to get away from promoting employees into management positions just because. A lot of times organizations move people up just because they’ve been a loyal employee and not because they have the education or skill set to effective handle the position. Management is a tough position and the majority of individuals are not capable of performing those functions in an efficient and effective manner. In situations where middle managers are not property trained they turn to bullying and degrading tactics to handle subordinates. This can be harmful to the organization as it can lead to hostile work environments and potential lawsuits.
Today’s managers must ensure collaboration across an organization. Assigning value to focused, organized, defragmented, and shared information must be a management strategy aligned from the top down. Knowledge management initiatives must be incorporated into work practices and processes. One study published in the Journal of Knowledge Management (2002) concluded that effective KM requires the “knowledge manager” report to the CEO and is empowered to make policy decisions. Another study suggests that the effective knowledge management is lead by a ranking internal position or someone having in-depth and intimate knowledge of the organization/industry. Strong leadership will foster a supportive KM culture where integration of knowledge management and human resource processes are linked together. The human resource element should include training for knowledge collection and data mining, incentives for knowledge sharing and contributions, and recruitment must foster the expectations of the organizational requirements of knowledge sharing. Emphasis must be made to view knowledge management not as technology, but understand that knowledge management is people.
Lanci, P. (2007). Retrieved from http://www.ifad.org/pub/policy/km/e.pdf.
Laszlo, K. and Laszlo, A., The Role of Knowledge Management in a Changing World. Journal of
Knowledge Management (2002), vol. 6, issue 4, 400-412.
Kim, great points!
“Today’s managers must ensure collaboration across an organization.”
Managers must make colloration a culture of the organization. Fostering knowledge sharing as a positive mode of operations brings the best together “under one roof” regardless of location. Recruiting strong and confident leaders that are not intimidated or threatened by sharing knowledge will encourage collaboration. At ORNL, collaboration and matrix organization structure is critical to science advancement. Collaboration space or “hoteling” promotes casual information exchange. The technology infrastructure is also a tool that supports the collaborative approach to solving problems.
Knowledge workers in the US are becoming instrumental in businesses today especially where the delivery of ideas and information by skilled workers are needed to generate innovation. As illustrated in Knowledge Soutions by Serrat, “knowledge workers are individuals with different aspirations from the hierarchy-conscious personnel of the past, they are mobile and they do leave” (Serrat, 2008). These knowledge workers operate differently than the typically long-term employee. They aspire to share information and to be challenged in their environments and they expect to be compensated well for this wealth of knowledge. Being able to maximize the use and manage knowledge workers is a challenge to organizations. Because of the differences in how they work and share information, companies must utilize appropriate techniques in managing and motivating these workers. Knowledge workers want to know their contributions are helping to reach not only company goals but also personal goals. They are motivated differently, so each knowledge worker must be evaluated to find their balance of reward indicators for motivation. By providing proper management and continuing to offer areas of opportunities to these workers, US organizations can maximize this workforce.
Serrat, O. (2008). Managing knowledge workers. Knowledge Solutions, 12. Retrieved from http://www.adb.org/knowledgesolutions
The value of knowledge management is directly related to how effectively employees use the asset of managed knowledge in their day-to-day tasks. This flow of knowledge can be aided by managers implementing a few simple strategies. The current trend is for companies to have an open door policy where employees can directly communicate with one another, no matter their place on the corporate ladder. In the retail industry, when I would make the schedule, I would try to match less experienced employees to work alongside more skilled associates. I did not know it at the time, but I was creating a knowledge center where our combined strengths and competencies were optimized. This tactic had some other unexpected benefits. In an industry where frontline employees are young and not career-oriented, this strategy helped to keep motivation high and turnover low. The effective use of knowledge management in the corporate world can enjoy these benefits on a much larger scale.
Bellinger, G. (2004). Knowledge management- emerging perspectives. systems-thinking.org. Retrieved from http://www.systems-thinking.org/kmgmt/kmgmt.htm
What can US organizations do to maximize the usage of this knowledge workforce?
Like any asset the maximum use of knowledge workers is determined by the expected optimum return on investment. US organizations have a global market to obtain knowledge workers as input into the wealth creation process. Technology will continue to augment the output of knowledge workers without the need to increase input cost drastically. So the the question becomes what is the optimum use of the US knowledge workforce? US organizations are known the world over for their creativity and evaluation skills. It is the creative and innovative capabilities that makes the US knowledge worker a key asset in the global market. Global organizations who value product leadership would do wise to leverage the massive innovations coming out of US start ups as well as our colleges. US organizations must decide are they going to be product/service innovators or mere marketers for big global brands. Either way US organizations will need to leverage the raw, abundant, creative energy to operate in a global market.
We appreciate your insight on knowledge workers.
Knowledge management should begin in the human resources. Imagine how hard it would be fill a position that has not been open for twenty-five years or more. Procedural knowledge is an upcoming challenge that many companies will face upon the retirement of many baby boomers. In a recent article submitted to the Journal of Education for Business, Kristen and Peggy Brewer state, “Procedural knowledge is how to do something, methods of inquiry, and criteria for using skills, algorithms, techniques and methods (2010).” The future performance of an organization may depend on how veterans of the organization have shared their experiences and documented lessons learned throughout their careers. Mentorship programs are another way to ensure integral organization and procedural information is being exchanged. The person receiving the mentoring can report their progress to supervisors or directly to HR. This will help ensure the organization has competent individuals filling roles for future success. As younger managers move into leadership positions, we will see more focus on knowledge management due to increasing competition in industries.
Brewer, P. D., & Brewer, K. L. (2010). Knowledge Management, Human Resource Management, and Higher Education: A Theoretical Model. Journal of Education for Business, 85(6), 330-335. doi:10.1080/08832321003604938
In order for management to succeed in the every changing market of the 20th century they must begin to implement and utilize new management techniques. Over the last decade technology has become a key component of a competitive / successful company. However, in recent years the implementation of new technologies has not generated the success so often seen in the past. It is imperative that companies not only invest in new technologies but invest in skilled workers to better utilize these tools. I Malhotra Yogesh states, “Knowledge Management caters to the critical issues of organizational adaption, survival and competence in face of increasingly discontinuous environmental change. Essentially, it embodies organizational processes that seek synergistic combination of data and information processing capacity of information technologies, and the creative and innovative capacity of human beings.” Therefore companies must develop new ways of training management especially in the use of utilization of employees. By taking small steps such as this organization can except to see increased production throughout the company.
Malhotra, Yogesh. “Deciphering the Knowledge Management Hype,” The Journal for Quality & Participation, July/August 1998 (Special issue on Knowledge Management), published by the Association for Quality & Participation.
A knowledge worker is a valuable commodity. These are workers that are important to the company’s strategic objective. “An organization’s knowledge and capability depends primarily on its human and social capital,” according to Dr. Daryl Green and Gary Roberts ( 2011 Impending Danger). Many people in positions of authority are more interested in managing inputs and work processes. Not all managers know how to manage people. This is slowing changing in the US. According to Tom Stypulkoski, (Cultivating a Knowledge Workforce), “Companies that want to achieve a sustainable Competitive Advantage for the foreseeable future will need to enhance their workforce planning processes. It is important that these processes must be a part of a company’s strategic planning process.” Mr. Stypulkoski is the originator of the phrase “knowledge transfer productivity” which means an organization’s ability to efficiently convey vital information from employee to other employees in so that it will keep projects fluid and full speed ahead at all times. This is even in the case of attrition and organizational setbacks.
Cultivating Knowledge Transfer by Tom Stypulkoski http://www.workforce.com/section/training-development/feature/cultivating-knowledge-transfer/
Impending Danger by Dr. Daryl D. Green and Dr. Gary E. Roberts, 2011 Linus Publications, Inc
I think a big part of it is that companies and organization cannot admit they have that knowledgeable workforce, or at least the managers don’t. They think if they admit it then they well have to share their power which makes them seem less useful. We also have to admit that it’s going to be a challenge for managers accustomed to managing workers in more traditional way to move into this new modern way of looking at managing. In the past, managers are the “God” of the operation, they know everything and they tell everyone else what to do and where to do it at. These days the managers have to manage these workers knowledge power, they have to look at these human resources as a pool of intellectual capital – raw material for the knowledge economy. “Knowledge workers spend 15 percent of their time each day searching and 50 percent of these searches fail – at an annual cost of $6,000 per worker.” If companies don’t offer their employees better research tools then the cost for “lag” time is going to keep increasing.
Jonathan B. Spira (2004) “Managing the Knowledge Workforce” Retrieved from: http://bsx.stores.yahoo.net/maknwo.html
Knowledge workers reportedly spend half of their time on interactions, it is imperative for management to explore the barriers that might prohibit this interaction. A survey conducted by the McKinsey Quarterly found that more than half of all interactions are constrained by one of five barriers: physical, technical, social or cultural, contextual, and temporal.
Physical and technical barriers go hand in hand because of the lack of effective tools for locating the right people to collaborate become more pronounced when people are located far away from one another, online communities are a way to connect workers for knowledge sharing. Social or cultural barriers include a rigid hierarch or ineffective incentive plans, companies should encourage a culture of knowledge sharing. Contextual barriers result when employees struggle to share knowledge with employees in different departments, these groups often struggle to communicate because they think and talk so differently. One method to address contextual barriers is the rotating employees across teams so that can engage with different departments. Temporal barriers involve the perceived lack of time. Teams can be formed to “summarize finding and submit to an internal database.”
Matson, E. & Prusak, L. (2010) Boosting the productivity of knowledge workers. McKinsey Quarterly.
Gene Bellinger of Systems-Thinking.org states that, “The value of Knowledge Management relates directly to the effectiveness with which managed knowledge enables the members of the organization to deal with today’s situations and effectively envision and create their future.” Just as Lee Bryant elaborated on in the video, there is an emphasis on the need to document on-demand managed knowledge.
Organizations today should utilize technology in order to document and store knowledge generated during meetings and email in a way that can be later looked up or reference. Organizations should also encourage open conversations regarding current job descriptions and ideas to increase efficiency and productivity. The organization should require a written description of an employee’s job description and take care to periodically update the file. Examples of how to store this knowledge include archiving emails on a server and recording meetings to ensure that knowledge does not escape just because it is not in print form.
Bellinger, Gene. “Knowledge Management—Emerging Perspectives.” http://www.systems-thinking.org. 2004.
The term executive presence can mean different things to different people. Asking questions to gain more clarity for both the client and executive coach is critical to the executive coaching process when coaching a leader to improve their executive presence. Exceptional leaders know how to motivate people tapping into their internal motivation. They set goals that empower people and builds confidence. “
The group in-turn provides its members with a level of acceptance, listens to its members’ views, and provides a forum for the membership to express opinions consistent or at times dissenting from the group’s path or goals.” “Cooperation is essential to building trust and the mindset that its sum is stronger and more capable than its individual parts by encouraging the exchange of ideas and open dialogue. For an effective and dynamic group to evolve, members must recognize the interdependence model exhibited by its members and find ways to deal with them for the overall good.” Even with the best of intentions at heart, some members have hidden agendas and actively support the group while attempting to achieve individualistic goals behind the scenes.
As stated in the Blog today’s generation is a lot different than the past generations. Many workers of the past did what they were told and didn’t question the actions but today’s workers want to know and must know all elements of their job in order to get it done. With that being said US organizations can maximize their workers and give them more responsibilities and the power to make decisions which will free more time for management. Just as you call customer service with any organization and if the organization has maximize the knowledge workforce you won’t have to be transferred to another rep as that rep will have info and knowledge of all depts. to be able to handle your situation.