The heart of what knowledge workers do on the job is collaborate, which in general means they interact to solve problems, serve customers, engage with partners, and nurture new ideas in sectors ranging from scientific research to line level problem solving. In some sectors knowledge workers can account for up to 75% of the workforce, but we still don’t have adequate metrics to improve its efficiency and minimize the ‘wasted’ time inherent to knowledge work.
The recent influx of both commercial and open source collaborative technology solutions when used by knowledge workers has the potential to improve efficiency and add an element of quantitative metrics to measure success in an industry that has to this point been subjective. There is potential for sizeable gains from even modest improvements of access to web 2.0 tools such as social networks, wikis, and video conferencing. Both Cisco Systems and Procter and Gamble have employed this strategy with their international enterprise sales teams and have seen a significant improvement in productivity.
Now comes the important part – in order to be really effective leaders must consider the behavioral and structural requirements of their industry first by understanding the capabilities their own knowledge workers need to increase their productivity, and not tailor their processes to accomodate the capabilities new technologies provide. This may mean that out of the box solutions are not appropriate for your organization and require customization. Like any other product or service; not all collaborations are created equal!
Click on the image to check out McKinsey & Companies interactive tool to assess what collaborative tools are most appropriate for each class of worker!
(Using technology to improve workforce collaboration, James Manyika, Kara Sprague and Lareina Yee, 27 October 2009)