Power and Virtual Organizations LO30036

From: Fred Nickols (nickols@safe-t.net)
Date: 04/02/03

Replying to LO30028 --

Replying to Gijs Houtzagers in LO30028 --

>Just been discussing with my wife the topic of power and virtual
>I would like to get some feedback on the following that I saw in various
>organizations who tried to set up something that looked like knowledge
>...By using ICT (Information and communication Technology) for setting up
>knowledge systems for retrieval of data, information and knowledge the
>knowledge worker was told to give up his/her power on his/her extrinsic
>knowledge within these systems to a new partner, the ICT department who
>produced a set of rules and regulations how to behave working with the
>retrieval systems. The result is that the knowledge worker seeks other
>coalitions to create a political environment that will enable him/her to
>create workarounds or even cooptate some of the ICT department (those who
>are responsible for the management of the system.
>What do you think?

I think it's perfectly predictable and perfectly appropriate. I have been
studying and contemplating what Peter Drucker called "the shift to
knowledge work" since he first articulated it in the late 1960s. It
required no genius to see that management would move to retain its control
over the means of production. Unfortunately, "the means of production" in
a knowledge-based economy and in knowledge-based work is the knowledge
possessed, created, acquired and applied by the worker. In a sense, the
means of production is the mind. Hence, KM, particularly the IT-based
variations. The IT folks either genuinely believe they can capture and
control knowledge and knowledge work (and, implicitly, knowledge workers)
or they are reluctant to confess to senior management that they cannot do
so. (No, I do not see a middle ground here.) Consequently, knowledge
workers (few of whom, by the way, view or label themselves as such), find
their efforts to get the job done hindered instead of helped and they find
themselves targets of efforts to capture what they know and are learning.
Long story made short: the IT folks are viewed as the enemy and, for the
most part, rightly so, because, by and large, they know very little about
work, working and workers. Instead of bending their technology to support
work, working and workers, they bend everything else to fit their
technology. If ever there was a case of making everything into a nail
because the only tool at hand was a hammer, it's the history of IT. I've
known more than one IT person in my time who viewed the people and the
work they do as damned nuisances. So, it comes as no surprise to me that
when IT folks laid claim to KM that they would craft systems that the
knowledge workers would find cumbersome, problematic, unsupportive and
downright unfriendly. Avoidance and workarounds are the inevitable
outcomes, as are coalitions and other political alliances and actions
aimed at neutralizing the intrusive demands posed by IT.

That's what I think.

Fred Nickols


Fred Nickols <nickols@safe-t.net>

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