Home > Uncategorized > To make the knowledge worker productive

To make the knowledge worker productive

If Peter Drücker‘s classic statement holds true, then one of the most important achievements a company can do is to make the knowledge worker truly effective. It is as important as getting this ERP system or this CRM system up and running or upgraded, and are worthy of equal investments.

So if we go straight to the knowledge worker, what does she need? Think fresh, think anew. Forget history and all systems abound.

OK, now you and I, we are knowledge workers, what do we do, what do we work with, what kind of tools/environment would make us effective?

We work on a couple of cases/projects. We have been assigned specific tasks. It’s the case we are working on that is the focus.

What do we need to work on this case? What tools, what environments, which connections, which data, ….?


What do we do today? We make phone calls, we call for meetings, we write agendas, we meet, we take notes, we write reports, we have email exchanges, we chat, we even have video or phone conferences.

What’s wrong with this picture from a knowledge worker’s standpoint? See, the case is not the focal point anymore. It is not well treated. The applications and tools becomes the focal points. And the whole thing is too disconnected. We try to use a document sharing system, but the story is more than just documents. And the tools we use are not really made for collaborative work (see Talking together systems – wishlist).

Let’s make the case be the focal point. Let the knowledge worker be effective in working with the case. Let everything circle around this case. The case connects to necessary resources. Everything is linked in in one connected container. It is not dispersed in different tools. The tools we work with are made for collaborative efforts, because that’s what we need to do to solve effectively, we need to work with others and produce together in the electronic tool-set.

The disconnected, application-centered, non-collaborative world of Enterprise 1.0 is not really an effective knowledge worker’s workspace – the connected, information-centered world of Enterprise 2.0 is a much better one.

In the old world we struggle too much with baggage and history;  applications being the focus and thus complicated client environment configurations, the old typewriter metaphor – how will this document look when printed, we can’t really refer to or work on individual information items within dosuments, etc. In the new world we use simple web protocols/technology and what the web was made for;  collaboration – connecting data, connecting people. Conversations and conversational data are important resources – synchronous, but mostly asynchronous meetings/conversations that go on all the time. We don’t need to start an application to find, view or enter information. It’s all right there in the collaborative space, just a click away, browser/HTML based. The focus is on the content and how to collaboratively develop content and collective intelligence. Content first – we don’t worry about how the document looks or formats for print-out, that is taken care of automatically. We can refer to and work on specific information items, which may be just a paragraph or a question within a context, etc.

If the attributes of a knowledge worker are truly valued and recognized as a main asset in the company’s value stream, then everything will be done to make her as productive as possible. We will analyze her situation, what make her effective, what hampers her productiveness? We will use Lean methods to eliminate waste that hamper her productiveness. We will think like SCRUM and appoint a SCRUM Master with the authority to protect the SCRUM team of knowledge workers so they can be as effective as possible. And we will invest in systems and environments that make the knowledge worker truly effective.  For example:

  • As knowledge workers we don’t really need to go into the ERP system ( or CRM or whatever). We need data from it yes and we might need to enter data, but that should be from the case via a standard interface – we deliver to that interface and we query that interface and it’s all reachable as part of the knowledge worker’s collaborative space, ie using web technology (HTML, REST …).
  • We don’t really need “Portals” in its traditional sense either to be effective. A portal is a “port” to something – to what? Something higher, more important? But the case I’m working on now is the important thing. I might need corporate resources, yes. But let me just pull them in myself and they become part of this case’s information container.

But management need to inform about important company stuff. Right. I choose to follow my boss or the management stream. The company trust their knowledge workers. It’s their responsibility to stay informed. We work like self-managed SCRUM teams. It’s the SCRUM Master’s (ie. Management’s) responsibility to protect the team so it can stay productive. We assume everybody take responsibility; the knowledge worker, management, everybody – and the SCRUM team has the authority to eject members who don’t take that responsibility.


PS: There is an accompanying post brewing. It’s called: “Information is King” – meaning as opposed to application. It is information we need, not the application. We need functionality, yes – but that could be bits of functionality as we need bits of information. Functionality and data need to be decoupled. This is the Real Cloud and Real SaaS. This is the Cloud for Us, a model designed to make us – the users of data and functionality productive, not as it is now with models in the Cloud to make the vendors profitable. The vendor that see these customer needs, will win eventually. See this presentation as an example –> Producing desired (business) output
Categories: Uncategorized
  1. 2011-07-27 at 21:46

    This model for Case Management indicates that there is not a predictable pattern of events for teams, but there is a predictable set of artifacts. In order to support knowledge worker productivity, there needs to be an infrastructure to catalog those basics: meeting notes, requirements, issues, and so on.

    I talk about Project Artifacts here.

    • 2012-09-06 at 15:24

      So true. The illustrations above only have a user perspective, emphasizing user’s need to see case data only, well integrated/linked and not see apps or disconnected segregated data buried in or bound to apps which is so often the case. And as pointed out in your post, a clever wiki environment like Traction would enable this way of working on inter-connected information items much better than most current office tool set-ups. When we have this foundation, then flexible work patterns can be formed, making the knwoledge worker much more effective than current disconnected doc-centric environments.
      And also as you pointed out, enabling emergent patterns where “these artifacts are continually updated, reflected upon, and added to a system”.

  1. 2012-09-05 at 08:29
  2. 2012-09-27 at 13:00

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