Drucker on Knowledge Worker Productivity, Part 2

In his book, Management Challenges for the 21st Century, Peter Drucker analyzed and discussed the new paradigms of management.

Although much of the discussion revolves around the perspective of the organization, these are my takeaways on how we can apply his teaching on our journey of being a knowledge worker.

The concepts of knowledge work and manual work and their differences are intuitive. Drucker also discussed another important concept called “The Technologists.” He defined the technologists as workers who do both knowledge work and manual work.

This group includes people who perform knowledge work as their primary task and apply knowledge of the highest order. The technologists make up the majority portion of the knowledge workers. This group is also the fastest-growing group which includes occupations such as laboratory technicians, surgeons and dentists, computer programmers, and so on.

When it comes to truly advanced knowledge, Drucker believed no single country has the monopoly anymore. Only in educating technologists can the developed country still have a meaningful competitive advantage. Besides being a big part of the modern labor pool, increasing the productivity of the technologists deserves a high priority within any organization.

But what are the elements for making the technologists more effective? Drucker outlined three considerations.

First, we must ourselves the key productivity question “What is the task?” For many technologists’ work, the answer is not always obvious. If we focus solely on making the manual work portion of the technologists a little faster, better, or cheaper, we might miss the essential objective. Instead, technologists should be asking the critical question of “Who are we trying to serve and why are we doing it?”

Second, after we are clear about our task and our audience, the technologists must take the full responsibility of delivering projects to fulfill the answers. The technologists will apply their knowledge to deliver the quality and the quantity required by the projects. And only then could the technologists can be effective in organizing the manual part of the work.

Finally, organizations must treat the technologists as knowledge workers, no matter how time-consuming the manual part of their work. The organization’s focus must be on making the technologists knowledgeable, responsible, and productive.