Business & Technology Nexus

Dave Stephens on technology and business trends

The Knowledge Worker

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Wikipedia attributes the coining of the phrase 'knowledge worker' to management visionary Peter Drucker way back in 1959. Quite simply, knowledge workers develop and use knowledge as their primary activity.

The knowledge worker performs within an enterprise, to be sure, but also within virtual "knowledge networks." These networks aren't necessarily structured & are often invisible to management. They typically form & grow within your organizations (but sometimes form across your supply chain too).

Many believe, including me, that supporting the knowledge worker and these knowledge networks can be very important to your sustained success.

Knowledge workers are a tricky bunch however. They generally are not satisfied by top-down edicts unless they can understand the reasoning behind them. And further, as their knowledge grows they expect more autonomy in their activities – they need to make decisions & feel empowered.

Wikipedia also cites a book entitled 5th Generation Management (link to Amazon.com) by Charles Savage circa 1996. Savage makes several claims regarding the negative effects of staunchly hierarchical management structures – one of which is lack of collaboration, either between employees or departments. The book claims that looking at an organizational structure of 3: a boss and two direct reports, the most important relationship is between the two employees.

Of course many enterprises may not agree, and most are not set up in a way that fosters virtual knowledge networks at all. And finally, and this is the fine point of it, enterprise systems need to adapt to serve the needs of knowledge workers far better than they have to date.

In Procurement in particular, Center-led concepts come closest to recognizing the needs of knowledge workers throughout the enterprise. But there's a lot more to do…

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Written by Dave Stephens

06/15/06 9:39 AM at 9:39 am

Posted in Opinion

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