A Process based approach of knowledge worker performances

In a previous publication “A new paradigm for knowledge worker performance”, we established the peculiarities of the knowledge workers and the major issues related to their management. According to Professor Thomas H. Davenport, in Process Management for Knowledge Work, a possible approach to enhance the efficiency of knowledge work is to treat it as a process, imposing a formal structure on it and eventually to identify its beginning and its end.

As a first step, this procedure relies on the segmentation of the work based on the type of activity involved, such as the creation, the distribution or the applications of knowledge. The creation of knowledge or a new product is often seen as a black box and a sequence of steps with a fuzzy outline, thus, one potential way to enhance it is to consider it as a process. The author refers to the R&D departments of Corning, IBM and GE together with the design studio Alessi, in which processes have been implemented to enhance creativity and make it less fuzzy, without applying strains on the workforce.

As for Knowledge distribution, this aspect is more related to journalists, consultants and customer service and shouldn’t be considered as a process entirely. Nevertheless, the external circumstances in which knowledge is shared seems to be a critical parameters. The author refers to a study in which the performance of the knowledge worker that share knowledge are better than those that do not.

Knowledge application includes professions like sales, computer programming, medicine or engineering. For this category the use of knowledge is a main task, however knowledge creation is not the primary objective. According to the author, the major asset for this range of workforce is to reuse knowledge more effectively, in order to increase their performances.

The second step of this approach is the process design. It is an abstraction of how work should be done. Since there are usually good reasons for why work gets done in a particular way, involving knowledge workers into the design and the implementation of a new process is needed. Furthermore, the practical peculiarities of the work itself have to be fitted to the process design, regarding the needs of the workforce and what is stopping them from being more effective and efficient.