Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Tom Davenport - Tuesday Keynote address

KM World and Intranets 2005
Thinking for a Living: Improving the Performance of Knowledge Workers
by Tom Davenport, KM World

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Author of: Thinking for a Living: How to Get Better Performance and Results from Knowledge Workers by Tom Davenport

Top business management thinker – after Peter Drucker and Thomas Freidman Prof. Drucker has just died; he is dedicating his talk today to him.

What is a knowledge worker?

- Peter Drucker coined the term of a “knowledge worker”.
- Davenport defines it as someone highly educated, have a lot of expertise in their area; create, distribute or apply knowledge [librarians distribute; lawyers apply]

The opportunity

- knowledge workers are at the core of value creation and drive growth of companies; they drive the future
- HOWEVER: most organizations “hire smart people and leave them alone”

The problem

- knowledge workers typically enjoy high levels of autonomy
- their work is unstructured, collaborative, and iterative

How do you make knowledge workers’ work most constructive?

- segmentation: all knowledge workers aren’t alike, and their work shouldn’t be treated the same way
- see model: “Segmenting on Interdependence and Complexity”

Ten Ways to Improve Knowledge Work
(goes into more detail in his book)

1. Adopt a process orientation
a. Addresses the flow, measurement, outputs, and customers for work
b. Some PO aspects don’t work:
i. Redesigning from scratch – knowledge workers don’t want you taking apart and recreating their processes
ii. Specifying detailed process flows – takes a year of observation to create a detailed model
iii. Cannot separate process from practice
c. Alternative is to look at knowledge workers in practice
d. Works well with software and civil engineering, clinical trials and other health care protocol
e. Does not work well with finding oil and gas, executive management, drug development, academia
f. For knowledge workers:
i. Allow them participate in creating their own process
ii. Look for other ways to improve work
1. output specifications
2. role structures
3. customer orientation
4. [ - ]

5. Change the external environment
a. Don’t change the content or process, but change things like
i. Physical space
- the bigger the work space, the higher the productivity (not sure why);
- people should be allowed choice how to design their physical space
ii. Team structures
iii. Culture
iv. Technology
v. All of the above, but not all at once
b. Embed knowledge into work
a. Difficult to employ knowledge in the context of work – people don’t have time to contribute knowledge since they are so busy
b. KM repositories suffer for this reason
c. Best to have the technology collect knowledge for you
c. Automated decisions
a. Using a decision tree for aspects of work
d. Focused knowledge management
a. Some work is too unstructured or iterative to be amenable to embedding knowledge into work; for these, traditional KM repositories or portals may be the best solution and should be structured for these people
6. Address personal capabilities
a. Everyone works and progresses faster than in the past because of changes in IT
b. Devices and tools for personal information management aren’t integrating well
c. More information and knowledge than people can handle
d. People need help
e. People spending 40% of their day processing new information
f. Strategies:
i. Use as few devices as possible
ii. Learn one piece of software very well
iii. Invest some time on a weekly basis
iv. Don’t be a missionary
v. Find a gadget or two and stick with it
vi. Paper is still useful medium for most
vii. Lists can be freeing
viii. Get some instruction in searching
7. Reuse existing intellectual assets
a. Difficult
b. Need leadership – needs someone who understands to take charge
c. Asset visibility – people need to be able to see it
d. Asset control – needs to remain high quality
8. Put someone in charge
9. Emulate the social networks of high performers
a. Better social networks, more extensive, more sought out for information, more aware of information than the average person
b. Knowledge work is social work – need people to make it work
10. Experiment and measure
a. We don’t really know what we’re doing so need to experiment
b. Need to use some scientific method;
i. change only one factor at a time
ii. control group
iii. measures
iv. systemic recording of learnings

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