Monday, February 28, 2011

Separate the know from the flow

By: Thei Geurts, presales consultant

Just received a confirmation from the McKinsey Quaterly that they have accepted and published my comment on the article of Thomas H. Davenport on "Rethinking knowledge work: A strategic approach".

In this February 2011 article Thomas Davenport argues that: "We live in a world where knowledge-based work is expanding rapidly. So is the application of technology to almost every business process and job. But to date, high-end knowledge workers have largely remained free to use only the technology they personally find useful. It's time to think about how to make them more productive by imposing a bit more structure. This combination of technology and structure, along with a bit of managerial discretion in applying them to knowledge work, may well produce a revolution in the jobs that cost and matter the most to contemporary organizations." Mr. Davenport gives some limited examples for this, in his own words, radically different approach to the productivity of knowledge workers.

In my comment I focus on the approach and results of Be Informed clients in realizing this line of thought. The comment was published on the 7th of February under the name: Thei Geurts, Be Informed, Netherlands. This is the link: McKinsey Quarterly - Rethinking_knowledge_work_A_strategic_approach.

For the readers that don't want to register to the McKinsey Quarterly, here is the text of my comment:

Indeed, what is required is a change of perspective. A change from a control point of view or a granting maximum freedom point of view, towards a view that looks for a synthesis between control and freedom. It is the era of the 'AND.'

In various recent projects, I have seen how it is possible to realize substantial productivity improvements by an approach that separates 'the know' from 'the flow.'

The know stands for the business logic, rules, concepts and relations, and references to their authentic sources. The flow stands for the dynamic process of a case in which the know is infused. Knowledge workers are engaged in a goal-driven decision making process in which they have a high level of autonomy in how to organize their work. The decision prevails over the path towards the decision. Contextual information is provided based upon the case and phase at hand and actionable information has been made executable by instruments like decision trees, checklists, interactive forms, and calculators.

The process offers at the same time support to conform to operating standards and to leverage knowledge and methodologies for managing the life cycle of a case effectively. This includes facilities for coordination, planning, assigning tasks and time, and for embedded logging and history trails to serve audit and compliance purposes.

Examples of achieved productivity gains are: implementing a change in government regulations within 2-3 days instead of in 9 months, operational cost reduction for environmental licensing of 96 million Euro in year 1, reduction of TCO-costs with 50%.