Henry Ford revolutionized the assembly line. The Japanese and Deming perfected it, and yet I ask, “When was the last time you made a widget?” We don’t do much widget making anymore. Machines or other specialists handle widget making. Knowledge work is different because code and processes have replaced the assembly lines, and email and meetings have become the “widgets” we make.
Knowledge work has left us empty, and the only time we see the work we do might be mowing the yard on the weekend or doing the dishes after dinner. Work has become invisible, and the paradigm needs to shift. We are knowledge workers, and yet what do we produce? We have meeting after meeting and email after email. We have produced bits and bytes at the end of the day. Our work has become a bunch of 1’s and 0’s on a computer somewhere. And our satisfaction has left too. I know I long for the days where I can physically see the work at the end of the day. It astonishes me how satisfying a little physical labor can be — seeing the work of your hands — seeing the movement of dirt or creating that Ikea furniture. The satisfaction of something accomplished follows pain.
So what do we do with this knowledge work? It isn’t going away. It is here to stay. So how do we shift this work into something more satisfying and rewarding? This question led to more questions than answers. The first question I asked was what is the deliverable of a knowledge worker — a simple question yet profound. I started tracking down the “work” I did on a given day. It was pathetic. I sent 20 emails, scheduled four meetings, and attended six meetings. What did I accomplish? It didn’t feel like much. Sure some of the emails were required, and some meetings were productive. There must be more than emails, and meetings have to be, so my deliverables couldn’t be emails and meetings. There was more, but what was it. It wasn’t time spent because on some days. I was on cruise control or checking out. So I asked another question. What made the days that felt good. Things started to clarify as I asked more questions, better questions. It was time to dig into the root of the problem.
What do I do?
- I discover the pain points and problems of the people I serve
What do I do with this knowledge?
- I set expectations and provide clarity for those with the ability to do this work.
What is required to transfer knowledge?
- This work requires setting expectations and ensuring clarity for those who own the problem.
What is required to transfer authority?
- Any transfer of ownership requires trust and partnership, so there must be a solution to the problem.
How do we know we have a solution?
- A Solution is complete when it is documented, has metrics, and the end-users have adopted it.
These questions and answers have helped me identify the critical deliverable for Knowledge Workers.
KNOWLEDGE TRANSFER — The ability to transfer one’s knowledge.
Knowledge Transfer is the gap. We have plenty of tools for work and plenty of self-help solutions, and yet we have spent very little time identifying the gap. Transferring the correct knowledge to the right people is a game-changer in how Knowledge worker works. It is a different way to work and think. So if you want to change the way your next meeting goes, ask, “What is getting Transferred?”
- What Knowledge did I transfer?
- What Work is transferring?
- Is Ownership is being transferred?
- Is the Solution closer to being transferred to the final owner?
At the end of the meeting, are the steps clear to the others in the meeting? If not, no matter what Business or Self-help tool you use, you will feel ineffective at your job.