Had a discussion couple of posts ago about how to ensure that workers are productive and do the right things. Found a quote from Peter Drucker that goes right to the heart of the issue of what is needed to manage knowledge workers.
The discussion was in the post “ACM: Feature or Paradigm” about Adaptive Case Management (ACM), and whether the worker can be trusted to be customer oriented and to do the right thing. I often see this kind of discussion around BPM: Theory X management says that the workers are self-interested or at least lazy, and Theory Y management says that workers can have the understanding and work for the goals of the organization. There is no single best answer, the approach to management will depend upon the job and the skill level of the workers.
Many people look to BPM as a way to codify Theory X. They want to assure that the worker does the right thing every time. Partially because the worker might make mistakes, but also because the worker might not be trusted, and BPM can prevent them from doing the wrong thing.
But when the conversation shifts to ACM and knowledge workers are involved, it is the nature of knowledge work that requires that A completely different approach be taken. Nobody says this better than Peter Drucker, from his book Management Challenges for the 21st Century (page 142):
SIX major factors determine knowledge-worker productivity
1. Knowledge worker productivity demands that we ask the question: “What is the task?“
2. It demands that we impose the responsibility for their productivity on the individual knowledge workers themselves. Knowledge workers have to manage themselves. They have to have autonomy.
3. Continuing innovation has to be part of the work, the task, and the responsibility of knowledge workers.
4. Knowledge work requires continuous learning on the part of the knowledge worker, but equally continuous teaching on the part of the knowledge worker.
5. Productivity of the knowledge worker is not — at least not primarily — a matter of the quantity of output. Quality is at least as important.
6. Finally, knowledge-worker productivity requires that the knowledge worker is both seen and treated as an “asset” rather than a “cost.” It requires that knowledge workers want to work for the organization in preference to all other opportunities.
I think it is really important that we see the difference in the approach that we need to take with a knowledge worker, from how we might approach a routine job. Those saying that BPM and ACM are the same thing often misjudge how big an effect something like the above will have on how you design support systems. BPM systems in general tend to be oriented toward control, but Drucker says that that is exactly the wrong thing for a knowledge worker.
ACM is designed to meet the demands of managing and supporting knowledge workers.