According to Peter Drucker, the most important contribution of management in the 20th century was the fifty-fold increase in the productivity of manual worker in manufacturing. Likewise, the most important contribution management leaders needs to make in the 21st century is to increase the productivity of knowledge work and knowledge worker.
According to the OECD, a knowledge worker is a person whose primary task is to generate and apply knowledge rather than provide services or produce physical products. This type of workforce is employed because of his or her knowledge of a subject matter than their abilities to perform manual labor.
Knowledge workers are responsible for a large panel of tasks and consequently, they are critical assets for the growth of the today’s organizations. The survival of the companies, their strategies and their success in our economies rely on the manner knowledge workers did their work. As a proof, companies with a high ratio of knowledge workers in their workforce are the fastest growing and most successful in the United States and other leading economies.
However, despite their importance, these employees are still considered as a classical workforce and little is known about the management of their performances. Recent research papers are scarce and when we consider that in the beginning of this century almost half of the global workforce is involved in the manipulation of knowledge and information, knowledge worker performance is of critical interest.
In 2015, Thomas H. Davenport published Process Management for Knowledge Work, a chapter in the International Handbooks on Information Systems based on previous research in 2005 and 2009. The content of this chapter tends to improve knowledge work performances using a process oriented approach. According to Professor Davenport, Improving any form of work can be done by treating it as a process, imposing a formal structure on it and identifying its key steps.
This process oriented framework will be discussed in more details in the next publications.