The Knowledge Worker and the Learning Organization

A knowledge worker in today’s workforce is a person that is valued for their capability to explain information within a particular subject field. On the whole knowledge workers are people who, when working, use their brain more than their muscles. The term was first created by Peter Drucker in his 1959 book “The Landmarks of Tomorrow”. Nonaka (1991) portrayed knowledge as the fuel for innovation, but was referred that many managers failed to comprehend how knowledge could be leveraged. Companies are more like living organism than machines; he debated, and most viewed knowledge as a static input to the corporate machine. Nonaka recommended a view of knowledge as renewable and changing, and that knowledge workers were the performers for that change. Knowledge-creating companies, he trusted, should be focused firstly on the task of innovation.

This laid the basis for the new practice of knowledge management, or “KM”, which evolved in the 1990’s to encourage knowledge workers with standard tools and processes. Every knowledge worker in modern organization is an “executive” if, by virtue of his position or knowledge, he is responsible for a contribution that materially affects the capacity of the organization to perform and to obtain results. Peter Drucker (1966).

2. Learning Organization.

Learning organization is an organization that operates on similar rules as a living organism. As any living organism, learning organization is invented from different pieces. They are connected together with relations and bonds. Together all pieces and relations make a larger whole, a composite system. The difference between a learning organization and organization that does not learn is following:

Learning organization can monitor its external and internal environment.

Learning organization comprehends underlying rules of environment dynamic.

Learning organization can use these rules to address and begin changes.

The period of monitoring, comprehending, and changing is basis of organizational learning.

Peter Senge features five significant perspectives of learning organization in his noted book The Fifth Discipline.

They are:

Personal skill ”“ the capability of person to learn and develop. No learning organization can be founded without personal learning and development.

Mental models ”“ unconscious deeply rooted individual images that affect our behavior.

Shared vision ”“ vision shared by employees is a torch that ignites the light on the way to future.

Team learning ”“ cooperation of persons and teams leads to acceleration of organizational learning.

System thinking ”“ clarifies basic rules and two kinds of feedback that found system dynamics.

Senge’s five disciplines are a toolset of present-day learning organization. System thinking empowers the organization to comprehend its external and internal environment and its dynamics. Personal skill, mental models, shared vision and team learning assist to address and begin needful changes. Senge does not clarify in detail importance of knowledge but then organizations and academics began to be seriously involved in knowledge management activities.

3. Knowledge and Learning Organization.

Knowledge holds separated pieces of organization together and enable them communicate. If it were for knowledge, organizations, particularly the more compound ones, would not

If it were not for knowledge, organizations, especially the more complicated ones, would not live. Companies which work on intensely competitive markets and must innovate and make changes are often learning organizations. They comprehend significance of knowledge for their fortune and actively search for tools and ways that would help them to enlarge the profitability of their knowledge. A lot of them try to institute knowledge management. A lot of them unfortunately mix up knowledge with information or data which directs to waste of money and disappointment. It is very significant distinguish between terms data, information and knowledge. Data is everything we can monitor by our senses, everything we can feel, smell, taste, and hear. It is a set of discrete, real facts about events. Data can be structured and stored in some type of technology. Data is absolutely real; it subsists even we do not know about it. Information is data that user discover significant during the process of their explanation. The involvement of the user makes information much less objective than data.

Information depends on user and his capability to identify it and on situation he gives it.

Knowledge is a changing system with interactions among experience, skills, facts, relations, values, thinking

process and meanings. Knowledge is always referred to human action and emotion. Knowledge consists of two dimensions, explicit and tacit. Explicit knowledge is knowledge that has been or can be articulated, codified, and stored in certain media. It can be readily transmitted to others. Tacit knowledge (as opposed to explicit knowledge) is knowledge that cannot be transfer to another person as a result of it being or verbalized. Tacit knowledge is not readily shared. Tacit knowledge includes often habits and culture that we do not realize in ourselves. In the area of knowledge management, the idea of tacit knowledge concerns, to a knowledge which is only known by a person and that is difficult to tell to the rest of organization. Knowledge that is easy to tell is called explicit knowledge. The process of transforming tacit knowledge into explicit knowledge is known as codification or articulation. The tacit perspectives of knowledge are those that cannot be classified, but can only be transferred via training or gained through individual experience. Tacit knowledge has been portrayed as “know-how” ”“ as opposed to “know-what” (facts), “know-why” (science), or “know-who” (networking).

Both dimensions of knowledge can be identified in organizations. Explicit dimension is usually present in the form of data in some corporate informational system; tacit dimension is in heads of employees.

4. Knowledge worker productivity.

Drucker (1999, p.142) portrays six main factors definitive knowledge worker productivity. 1) “Knowledge worker productivity demands that we ask the question: “What is the task?” 2) It demands that we impose the responsibility for their productivity on the individual knowledge workers themselves. Knowledge workers have to manage themselves. They have to have autonomy. 3) Continuing innovation has to be part of the work, the task and the responsibility of knowledge workers. 4) Knowledge work requires continuous learning on the part of the knowledge worker, but equally continuous teaching on the part of the knowledge worker. 5) Productivity of the knowledge worker is not – at least not primarily – a matter of the quantity of output. Quality is at least as important. 6) Finally, knowledge worker productivity requires that the knowledge worker is both seen and treated as an ”˜asset’ rather than a ”˜cost’. It requires that knowledge workers want to work for the organization in preference to all other opportunities.”

Drucker points out that many knowledge workers have many activities beyond their core task which take up their time and remove their concentration, thereby impacting productivity. He strongly advocates concentration of effort, with other tasks minimized or delegated (1992 p85).

Knowledge is significant for organizational performance, and by accomplishing a human resource policy to evolve the knowledge worker and to retain the knowledge, a firm can comprehend how to create, transfer and use it efficaciously to develop a competitive advantage.

5. Differences in Management of Manual and Knowledge Workers

Manual workers, though they also have settled knowledge, found values by combining material elements. The main raw material for knowledge workers’ work is knowledge. When observing manual workers we can follow the way they work, we see the final product or service gain its definitive form step by step.

Knowledge workers generally do not work in a simple way and we cannot follow their work. The most part is done in their heads even though the definitive effect of a knowledge worker’s work has a manual character. For instance, surgeons who operate on patients make their incisions using a tool they hold in their hands in the same way that manual workers hold a hammer, but the main piece of their work is done in their heads where they analyze huge numbers of changes in any moment of the operation and arrange their work to the development of these changes.

We can watch the work of manual workers and improve any mistakes or problems. The work of knowledge workers is concealed; the observer does not watch and know the process. The work of knowledge workers cannot be watched. The relation of manual and knowledge workers to knowledge varies, too. Manual workers have knowledge that applies to their work but generally miss knowledge in a wide situation, which is focused at the organizational level of the organization. Knowledge workers frequently have knowledge that is not widely available and even their managers do not have it.

Knowledge work compared to manual work needs an individual with more knowledge and much better education in a certain area. It also needs an individual who can work and take decisions without assistance.

Dissimilarities between a knowledge and manual worker make differences in the way they should be managed. Managers can control the work of a manual worker but the work of a knowledge worker remains hidden. The effect of manual work can often be seen directly whereas the effects of knowledge work may vary from a short-term and long-term perspective. Managers can control manual workers and train them on which

knowledge to use and so can regulate the process of work. They can compare results of manual workers’ work with generally well-known criterions and they can take urgent measures when problems occur. Unfortunately knowledge workers do not empower their managers to manage them this way. They often know more about the work than their managers, originate their own work criterions, and select the process of work and procedures to address problems. Many of them make the definitive control of their product or service themselves.

Theorists of management, managers and employees themselves see the shift from manual to knowledge worker. Learning organizations, if they want to remain “learning” should draw attention to their knowledge workers. They should find out how to define them, how to differentiate between groups of knowledge workers, how to manage and motivate them, and enlarge their productivity, how to get their allegiance and check their quality.

6. Conclusions.

Nowadays organizations are not detached from their external environment. They must be able to react to social and other changes rapidly. Learning organizations are extremely adaptable innovative organizations that meet this need. They learn and react to their external and internal environment in same way to living organisms. The main condition of their fortune is the capability to use their most precious asset, knowledge.

Knowledge can be detached from humans only to limited level. Knowledge management gives learning organizations tools to work with both dimensions of knowledge, tacit and explicit, in a systemic way, in relation to their needs. But it is not enough. Learning organization must also draw full attention to their

knowledge workers. When reading five disciplines Peter Senge chose for his book it is evident why. Individual mastery, shared vision, team work and mental models are disciplines which in fact address significant needs of knowledge workers.

Exit mobile version