Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Old Wives' Tales

Beginning with aboriginal tribes and throughout history, the beliefs, folklore and mores of groups have been passed from generation to generation through oral history or tribal knowledge. The term “tribal knowledge” has been adapted to the practice of modern Six Sigma methodologies. It is defined as the unwritten knowledge that is known within the tribe but is often unknown outside the tribe. I am wondering if, in addition to tribal knowledge, we also have tribal behaviors in our organizations. I will share an example from my own life growing up. As a young child, during a severe thunderstorm with much lightening, my mother would have her seven children put on their shoes. I was living in a dorm in college when I learned that this was not a common practice outside of my family. Perplexed about this custom, I asked mom why we did this. My mother explained that while growing up, my grandmother practiced the same ritual with all her children. She did this because her family would frequently live next door to natural gas storage tanks due to the fact that my grandfather’s occupation was drilling natural gas wells. In the event of a lightning strike, my grandmother and her children would be prepared to “run from the house” thus explaining the practice of putting shoes on during a thunderstorm. My mother was simply carrying on the “tribal behavior.”
 What “tribal behavior” is part of your organization’s culture? Is the behavior essential to your organization’s operations? Or, is it simply being done because “that’s the way we’ve always done it?”

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

It's What You Know

Part Four:  Our last spotlight is on the relationship of the knowledge worker and time management, problem solving, strategic planning and critical thinking.

The knowledge worker will not just manage time; he bends it to his will. With wireless devices and worldwide communication, the knowledge worker will have no concept of being “at work.” The eight-hour shift will have no meaning. She will work in an “on demand” style and will manage portfolios of projects with deadlines that merge and then diverge with collaborators from various physical locations around the world. The knowledge worker will be strategic in the way he completes day-to-day tasks. Critical thinking will be at the core of many tasks encountered by the knowledge worker. Knowledge workers will be all about solving problems and sharing schema, ideas and plans to solve a variety of problems.

What new and exciting ideas may come from the knowledge age?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Workin' Nine to Five

Part Three: Next we will examine the relationship of time management, problem solving, strategic planning and critical thinking and the industrial worker.

The industrial worker is keenly aware of time management. For the industrial worker, time rules supreme. Time away from the task is detrimental to the final product and negatively impacts the paycheck. Strategic planning and critical thinking are the domain of the management team. If the strategy impacts the industrial worker, it is often without her consent. The industrial worker will deal with a problem that directly relates to his ability to perform the task, but cannot see or has no desire to solve a global problem. When creating the industrial age, did we educate our workers to avoid thinking for themselves?

Note: the final part of this series will conclude with a discussion of the same skills and how they relate to the knowledge worker.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

How're You Gonna Keep 'Em Down on the Farm?

Part two: In the second part of this series we will look at how our selected skills relate to each worker.

The agrarian worker and time management, problem solving, strategic planning and critical thinking.
The agrarian worker doesn’t manage time; time manages the agrarian worker. Once planted, the planter does not have control over how fast the seed grows. The seed-to-harvest cycle is outside the control of the agrarian worker. However, the agrarian worker knows very much about strategic planning. Planning and harvesting the crops to ensure survival of farm and family over the non-productive winter months makes strategic planning of major importance to agrarian work. Problem solving is an important skill, but not as important as the two previously discussed skills. Critical thinking is most likely the least used by the agrarian worker.

Do you agree?

Note: Look for part three of this series that will examine how the skills discussed in this segment of the blog are related to the industrial worker.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Knowledge, Skills and Abilities, Oh My!

Part one: This is the first of a four-part series of blogs that will examine, compare and contrast the knowledge, skills and abilities of the agrarian-age worker, the industrial-age worker and the knowledge-age worker. Let us consider the following competencies: time management, problem solving, strategic planning and critical thinking.

As an introduction, let us consider key characteristics of the three workers:
  1. The agrarian worker had a temporal focus. Completion of the work required the passage of time. The crops didn’t grow over the course of one eight-hour shift; it took months. The harvest may change, but the location of the harvest stayed the same; the agrarian worked the same plot of ground year after year, and even generation after generation, but planted different crops on a rotating basis. Workers were connected to the land and the crop (i.e. product) and saw the seasons and cycles of life as the natural unfolding of the universe; respect, wisdom, history and folk lore were cherished and endowed by the passage of time.
  2. The industrial-age worker has a task-centered focus. Completion of the work requires the completion of the individual’s task, with the task being repeated many times in the eight-hour shift. The task and the location stay the same year after year. The worker has a place in the line and cannot move the task to a separate location because the act of un-sequencing the task will negatively affect everyone’s task downstream on the line. The worker is connected to the line and views the task as primary and unconnected to the other tasks performed in the process of completing the product. The industrial worker sees time as a commodity (time is money) and has a narrow focus on the impact of the task as it relates to the whole. Problems are local and solutions to problems cannot be generalized across the organization.
  3. The knowledge-age worker will have a 10,000-foot view of the work. This worker will see connections and webs. The work will be project-based and will dovetail with other knowledge workers in local and remote locations. Work will be done anywhere, any time. Work will be performed on-demand and out of sequence but all the pieces will still fit together for the final product. The work will be more cerebral in approach; ideas and knowledge will be more important than location. Connections to the work, the concept and the project at hand will be the supreme concern.Loyalty to the concept or the idea of the project will remain intact as the workers move from project to project. The knowledge worker will make connections about how their knowledge can have impact across systems, geographic borders and academic disciplines.
What is your organization doing to prepare for the knowledge worker who will be entering your workforce?

Note: Look for part two of this series to further examine how selected the skills are related to the agrarian worker.