Taylorization of knowledge work


I found an article via George Siemens: Tool-and-Die Makers in a Knowledge Economy.

What is keeping us back from going from the industrial product line-centered organization to a post-industrial knowledge intensive organization:

“In today’s organizations, those [Tool-and-Die Makers] displaying the most skill and insight with new tools for knowledge work focus on improving their personal productivity. There is no organizational role or payoff for making fellow knowledge workers more productive and effective.”

It’s true that organizations don’t approach knowledge working tools with the same vigor as they approached the production line. Software tools are often deployed to improve the personal productivity of individuals, not the organization as a whole. In cases where tools are deployed organization-wide, the requirements of a knowledge worker and how their performance actually builds up through other people is often forgotten.

The author goes on to apply Taylor’s scientific management principles inside the organization by their own employees for their own colleagues. I’m not sure if this is the right way to go, as taylorization of knowledge work is not probably working in the knowledge intensive era. The most important component to knowledge work is not repetition but learning. Taylor’s (or the author’s) approach doesn’t answer the question of how the individuals will learn more effectively to outperform their competition. Crafting knowledge effectively is not only about available tools but available people. Over-optimizing hand movements on a knowledge production line will just annoy the knowledge worker. The role of networks is forgotten here.

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