Friday 29 January 2016

Revolutionising the productivity of the Knowledge Worker 3 - the Knowledge supply chain

Over the last two days I have blogged about the challenge of revolutionising the productivity of the knowledge worker, which Peter Drucker set for us. We have looked at the division of knowledge labour, and the automation/augmentation of knowledge work. Today we look at the knowledge supply chain. 

The productivity of the manual worker was revolutionised through the transformation from craftsman production to factory production. Work was divided and automated, and individuals took their part within a work chain, or production line. Partly finished work came to them automatically, together with the parts and tools they needed, they did their own tasks, added their own value, and passed the updated work on to the next person.

That's how it works for manual workers, who make things.  Knowledge workers, on the other hand, make decisions rather than things. 

The raw material for knowledge workers is knowledge. Therefore in a world where knowledge work is divided (where we do not rely on experts who carry all the knowledge in their head) the knowledge worker needs partly finished knowledge to come to them automatically, together with the knowledge tools and additional knowledge they need, and when they have made their decisions and added their own value (often this is the innovation piece), then the updated work needs to be passed on to the next knowledge worker.

This is the vision of the organisation as a knowledge factory, or a knowledge assembly line, and for this to work, we need the knowledge supply chain.

I have already blogged several times about the knowledge supply chain (here, here and here). The knowledge supply chain is a new way of looking at an organisation of knowledge workers (predicted 20 years ago by Lord Browne of BP), and for ensuring that the correct knowledge reaches each knowledge worker, at the time and place they need it, to the required standard and quality, in a deliberate and systematic manner. Knowledge Management then becomes the supply chain for the knowledge worker.

Few organisations have got this right. Perhaps the only sector where KM approaches this model is the service-desk sector, where providing correct knowledge (answers to customer questions) to the front line staff is a vital KM service.

This vision of "Knowledge Management as a supply chain" requires a complete Knowledge Management Framework to be in place, with roles, processes, technologies and governance, with the sole purpose of supplying knowledge to the knowledge workers, to enable them to make the correct decisions.

In the next and final post of this series we look at the nature of this supply chain, and what it needs to become Lean

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