A Knowledge Revolution

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 However, advanced communication technologies and vast access to information by workers make this approach outdated.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

Knowledge Worker Revolution

 

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