By April 10, 2009 Read More →

Knowledge Workers Must Focus on the Results

Knowledge workers can change the game.  Knowledge can be used as an asset to improve the effectiveness of your business.  Exponentially.  You can use knowledge to improve your process or product.  You can gain efficiencies or create differentiates.  It’s not about having people just spend time in their jobs during the week.  It’s about creating enough space where knowledge workers can think of new ways to do things.  It’s about harvesting those ideas and turning them into results. 

In The Essential Drucker: The Best of Sixty Years of Peter Drucker’s Essential Writings on Management (Collins Business Essentials) , Peter Drucker writes that knowledge workers must focus on the results of the entire business.

Key Take Aways
Here’s my key take aways:

  • Ask knowledge workers how to improve the business.  If you don’t use the learnings to improve the business, it’s a waste.  It won’t happen automatically.  You have to to it by design.
  • Focus the knowledge work on the results across the business.  The real benefits come from focusing the knowledge work to improve the entire organization.
  • Set knowledge workers up for success.  Knowledge work takes time.  Carve out large chunks of time for real knowledge work, otherwise, it’s just the same daily grind.

In a competitive world, with rapid cycles of change, you can’t compete on throwing time at problems.  You need to compete with smarter ways for better days.   It’s not about how much time you spend on things.  It’s about how much value you create.  It’s really about how efficient and effective you are with your time and knowledge.

Questions to Ask Knowledge Workers
Drucker writes that wherever knowledge workers perform well in large organizations, senior executives take time out, on a regular schedule, to sit down with them, sometimes all the way down to green juniors, and ask:

  • What should we at the head of this organization know about your work? 
  • What do you want to tell me regarding this organization? 
  • Where do you see opportunities we do not exploit? 
  • Where do you see dangers to which we are still blind? 
  • And, all together, what do you want to know from me about the organization?

Knowledge Workers Must Focus on the Results and Performance of the Entire Organization
Knowledge workers must focus on the results of the entire organization.  Drucker writes:

The knowledge worker must be focused on the results and performance goals of the entire organization to have any results and performance at all.  This means that he has to set aside time to direct his vision from his work to results, and from his specialty to the outside in which alone performance lies.

Make Large Chunks of Time Available
Knowledge work takes time and a supportive setting.  Drucker writes:

This leisurely exchange is needed equally in a government agency and in a business, in a research lab and in an army staff.  Without it, the knowledge people either lose enthusiasm and become time-servers, or they direct their energies toward their specialty and away from the opportunities and needs of the organization.  But such a session takes a great deal of time, especially as it should be unhurried and relaxed.  People must feel that “we have all the time in the world.”  This actually means that one gets a great deal done fast.  But it means also that one has to make available a good deal of time in one chunk and without too much interruption.

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9 Comments on "Knowledge Workers Must Focus on the Results"

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  1. Very interesting post! Thanks for posting the key takeaways too — that’s always really helpful for your readers.

  2. J.D.,
    I agree 100%, but I am not a manager, I am a Knowledge Worker.
    What’s your advice for me to influence bottom up?
    I have so much experience from the trenches to share. So far I was unsuccessful to do so effectively.
    What’s you take?

  3. “It’s really about how efficient and effective you are with your time and knowledge.” I find thid to be very very true!

  4. this, not thid, whoops. :)

  5. Louisa says:

    The closest I’ve come to this sort of set-up is a company where the GM insisted on having a 30min morning meeting with some of the key people every day. I think his initial plan was just to stay on top of things happening in his factory, but those meetings came in very handy for problem solving too. Some days nothing happened but coffee drinking. But the 30 minutes was had either way.

  6. Hi J.D.

    I’m guessing the biggest problem is that knowledge workers are not given the time and/or support to develop creative ideas. Having top management participate and communicate is ideal, however, too often they’re not open to hearing the suggestions. Unfortunately it becomes the company’s loss and those with the good ideas move on – often to the competition, where they’re heard.

  7. J.D. Meier says:

    @ Positively Present

    Thank you. I try to make it as easy as posible to walk away with the insights.

    @ Alik

    Good question. Before you can really change things, you need rapport. There’s 2 things that help:
    1. Win the key influencers. Identify the key influencers and get them on board. You don’t have to get everybody on board, but you do need to first get the key influencers on board. It’s a divide and conquer strategy but it works like Dominos.
    2. Play off of what people already care about. The business goals, scorecard, and commitments that people are acting on are you friend. When you tie things directly to business results and you show WIIFY for the players, they start to listen. Know what they care about and value and speak that language so you have a bridge.

    Start there. That’s how you master pulling the levers in the system.

    @ Jannie

    I agree. I’ve found some techniques seriously optimize my time and results. For example, my email administration used to get close to 3-4 hours each day, but I found ways to knock it down to 30 minutes or less. I’ve also found some ways of working out that are extremely more effective than other ways.

    @ Louisa

    That’s a great example. I’ve seen variations off of that like an all hands once a week or once a month. It creates an out-of-band forum for sharing. I think the weekly was more effective than the monthly for keeping everybody in a rhythm. What also helped was an anonymous suggestion box. In the weekly meeting, they ran through the suggestions and people felt heard. It also lead to changes in the business. It worked.

    @ Barbara

    I agree and I see that all the time. What’s interesting though is I find it’s not a motivation issue, it’s more of a capability issue on both sides. When it’s not happening, what I see is upper management doesn’t know how to create the forum or act on the ideas and knowledge workers don’t know how to frame or pitch their ideas effectively.

    One pattern that I’ve seen work is to make things a project. In other words, if there’s a hot spot where there’s learnings, making it a project creates a forum for the idea, but also puts execution behind it to turn it into results.

    I’ve seen this work effectively where groups allocate 10% of their budget to R&D. This formally creates support for investing in new ideas.

  8. Hi J.D.

    Thank you for this post, you reminded everyone to do their work with:’The end in mind.’ After all if a person work hard but he or she were not focus on getting the results, than it is just working hard in a circle.
    Thank you for this.
    Giovanna Garcia
    Imperfect Action is better than No Action

  9. J.D. Meier says:

    @ Giovanna

    That’s a good way to put it. Results are the way to break out of the loop.