Knowledge Worker Productivity

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Knowledge Worker Productivity


A Knowledge Worker is a person employed due to his or her knowledge of a subject matter, rather than the ability to perform manual labor. It includes those in the information technology fields, such as developers, system administrators, technical writers and so forth. The term can also refer to people outside of information technology but who are hired for their knowledge of some subject, such as lawyers, teachers, and scientists. (Pyöriä 116-127) Knowledge Work Productivity is the measure of the efficiency and effectiveness of the output generated by workers who mainly rely on knowledge, rather than labor, during the production process. Drucker (2001) said “The productivity of knowledge work and of knowledge workers will not be the only competitive factor in the world economy. It is however likely to become a decisive factor [for industries in the developed world]” -- Peter E. Drucker 

This paper discusses knowledge-worker productivity and how this concept applies to the work environment of BT.


With companies shifting revenue generating activities from processes that traditionally used to be driven by manual work to those that are currently being driven by knowledge work, the ratio of knowledge workers has drastically increased to constitute almost 75 percent of the workforce in industrialized countries. While there is currently no standard measurement of knowledge work productivity, a taxonomy of research spanning back to the 1940s reveals that knowledge work productivity has mainly been analyzed - in descending order of advocacy - along the dimensions of: quantity, cost, quality, timeliness, autonomy, project success, customer satisfaction, creativity, responsibility level, perception, and absenteeism, in addition to assessments based on efficiency and effectiveness. (Ramirez, 602-628)

In his five year study, based on the work of Peter F. Drucker and research in practice, one conclusion from Jack Bergstrand in his book Reinvent Your Enterprise was that knowledge work could ultimately be judged on whether or not three things occurred:

when something successful that never existed previously, is now up and running;

when something successful that existed previously has been improved or expanded; or

when something unsuccessful that existed previously has been stopped.

The productivity for achieving one of these things, he argued, could be judged based on the speed with which it is accomplished, and the cost required to finish the job.

Drucker reviews the history of manual-worker productivity in manufacturing during the 20th century (which saw a fifty-fold increase) and speaks to the need for new methods that will make the improvements in knowledge-worker productivity that will ...
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