Thursday, April 24, 2008

Definition Of Knowledge Professional And How To Manage Them Effectively For Higher Productivity.

This is in reference to my previous post regarding Elton Mayo’s “Sense of Belonging” knowledge workers /free agents and managing them effectively.

I made some further studies on this, as this can become a very common problem for all managers who are leading knowledge professionals or heading a team of high caliber cerebral workers.

I found an interesting article in
HBR,Issue March 2007
“ How do you manage people who don’t want to be led and may be smarter than you?’ ,
Leading Clever People by Prof Rob Goffee at London Business School in U.K. and Prof Gareth Jones at Insead.

I requested Prof Goffee regarding the definition of a knowledge workers/professionals, he preferred the definition by Peter Drucker...knowledge workers are those who know more about their jobs than anyone.

In successful organizations you need a unique combination of quality manpower and conducive environment for growth, nurturing and managing of talents for continuous growth, productivity and profitability.

It’s like Michael Schumacher and Ferrai for winning the Formula 1.
Its’ not only the machine which matters, but also equally important the man behind the machine and vice versa.

Prof Goffee and Prof Jones clearly mentioned in the above mention article seven characteristics which all clever people share and their leaders should know it before hand in managing the bunch of cerebral workers.

1. They know their worth. The tacit skills of clever people are closer to those of medieval guilds than to the standardized, codifiable, and communicable skills that characterized the Industrial Revolution. This means you can't transfer the knowledge without the people.

2.They are organizationally savvy. Clever people will find the company context in which their interests will be most generously funded. If the funding dries up, they have a couple of options: They can move on to a place where resources are plentiful, or they can dig in and engage in elaborate politics to advance their pet projects.

3.They ignore corporate hierarchy. If you seek to motivate clever people with titles or promotions, you will probably be met with cold disdain. But don't assume this means they don't care about status; they can be very particular about it, and may insist on being called "doctor" or "professor."

4.They expect instant access. If clever people don't get access to the CEO, they may think the organization does not take their work seriously.

5.They are well connected. Clever people are usually plugged into highly developed knowledge networks; who they know is often as important as what they know. These networks both increase their value to the organization and make them more of a flight risk.

6.They have a low boredom threshold. In an era of employee mobility, if you don't engage your clever people intellectually and inspire them with organizational purpose, they will walk out the door.

7. They won't thank you. Even when you're leading them well, clever people will be unwilling to recognize your leadership. Remember, these creative individuals feel that they don't need to be led. Measure your success by your ability to remain on the fringes of their radar.

Now what about Mayo’s “Sense of Belonging”.

Elton Mayo’s The Hawthorne Experiments were done with workers in Western Electric works they had low skills and the knowledge base required were also low.

In Hawthorne Experiments the employees of the Western Electric works were not typical high end knowledge workers of today. They lacked security, and on job learning and lateral movements were also not possible.

That’s why the “Sense of Belonging “was easier to inculcate when the opportunities were less, on job learning avenues were less.

Now with globalization and high mobility, on job learning, online learning and continuous value additions the “Sense of Belonging “has come down and specially with the knowledge professionals.

As knowledge is perishable, all smart knowledge professionals update themselves fast, otherwise they will be redundant in their profession or at workplace. Workplace, organizations should be learning place and will give enough opportunities to learn and value add to themselves and the knowledge workers can do wonders.

Please feel free to put your remarks on this topic.

I sincerely thank Prof Goffee of London Business School and Prof Marshall Goldsmith of Harvard Business School for giving valuable suggestions to me on this topic.