Thanks to management thinkers such as Peter Drucker, Thomas Davenport amongst others, the concept of Knowledge Worker has definitely become clear. This understanding has led to number of studies showing increased interest in understanding the nuances of managing knowledge workers, the change from blue-collar worker management to while-collar worker management to knowledge worker management! But what we have lost rather may have lost is that – it is only resources which can be managed, not people! The whole idea of human being as a resource needs thinking – because then we may actually start trying to lead rather than to manage.
Managing and Leading are two activities with different objectives requiring their individual practitioners almost conflicting characteristics. Just think! Hence if we subscribe to the view that human beings especially knowledge workers are not plain resources available to institutions and society at large then we need more thinking – Should they be managed or led? Can they be shown the way and let to manage themselves? Should they then be trained / tutored / mentored on understanding contribution over commitment?
The very idea of knowledge workers indicates people who are willing to do the thinking and identify what is best for the accomplishment of an activity. This being the case will it make sense to tell them this is the way ahead or will it make better sense to let them know where we want to go and allow them to contribute in reaching there. There is also a very important second thought to this – the idea of contributing. When a person believes in a cause and contributes to it – he / she gives more into the goal at hand than treating that as an activity imposed by a superior. Since many organizational practices still are incremental improvements over the industrial age habits – and the workers have shifted from blue-collar thinking to knowledge-worker mindset, it is resulting in a friction. Many of us also experience this while leading or being led!
Every leader of repute wants to have more passionate people walk-in to work everyday. If we need to really start seeing passion-filled people walking into glass building everyday it is important to understand the nature of this change. We need to accept, acknowledge and incorporate new techniques, processes to enable knowledge workers to identify and align themselves to what they like to do. Since this requires a certain level of convincing the heart more than the mind, this may not be possible too easily for managers – it may be in the realm of true leaders to make this transition!