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Designing Non-Routine Knowledge Work

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Presentation on theme: "Designing Non-Routine Knowledge Work"— Presentation transcript:

1 Designing Non-Routine Knowledge Work
Carolyn Ordowich and Douglas Austrom, Ph.D.

2 Five Forces Shifting the Nature of Work Gratton
TECHNOLOGY Technological capability increases exponentially Five billion become connected The cloud becomes ubiquitous Continuous productivity gains Social participation increases The world’s knowledge becomes digitalized Mega-companies & micro-entrepreneurs emerge Ever-present avatars and virtual worlds Rise of cognitive assistants Technology replaces jobs ENERGY RESOURCES SOCIETY Families become rearranged The rise of reflexivity The role of powerful women The balanced man Growing distrust of institutions The decline of happiness Passive leisure increases CONTEXT OF WORK Energy prices increase Environmental catastrophes displace people A culture of sustainability begins to emerge 24/7 global world Emerging economies Ascendance of Gen Y Increasing longevity Some Baby Boomers grow old poor Global migration increases China & India decades of growth Frugal innovation Global educational powerhouses World becomes urban Continued financial bubbles and crashes Regional underclass emerge DEMOGRAPHY and LONGEVITY GLOBALIZATION

3 Task Uncertainty / Ambiguity
Shifting Nature of Work Change in nature of work Task Uncertainty / Ambiguity Degree/nature of interdependence Volatility Virtuality - time zones, ICT, language, geography X-boundaries - functional/ discipline, organizational, sector, national, cultural Effectiveness Innovation Quality Flexibility Service Sustainability Efficiency Mixed Models H Knowledge Work Complexity Mixed Models “Manual” Work V = Volatility. The nature and dynamics of change, and the nature and speed of change forces and change catalysts. U = Uncertainty. The lack of predictability, the prospects for surprise, and the sense of awareness and understanding of issues and events. C = Complexity. The multiplex of forces, the confounding of issues and the chaos and confusion that surround an organization. A = Ambiguity. The haziness of reality, the potential for misreads, and the mixed meanings of conditions; cause-and-effect confusion. L Efficiency Routine Non-routine 3

4 What is Non-Routine Knowledge Work?
The primary task of knowledge work is non-routine problem solving that requires a combination of convergent, divergent, and creative thinking (Reinhardt, Schmidt, Sloep, &Drachsler 2011). Knowledge work is typically non-repeated, unpredictable, and emergent. Knowledge work primarily involves the management of unstructured or semi-structured problems (Keen & Morton, 1978) characterized by imprecise information inputs, varying degrees of detail, extended or unfixed time horizons, dispersed information formats, and diffuse or general scope (Pava, 1983).

5 Evolution of Sociotechnical Systems Three Waves
Wave One: 1950’s-1970’s STS started with the design of routine work – both in the plant and office, which could be treated with the same socio-technical paradigm so that work redesign for both followed the pattern of the self-managing group. However as the environment became more turbulent, work became more non-routine, i.e. processes were multiple, concurrent and nonlinear; skills were too complex to permit cross-training; the work culture is that of an individual specialist who must collaborate with others to achieve outcomes. STS evolved to deliberation design of non-routine work – Pava highlighted that technology had become cognitive , a figure-ground reversal, pushing physical instruments into the background. Wave Two’s conversion processes entailed the transformation of equivocal, ill-defined, ambiguous and conflicting issues into problems that can be dealt with. The topics vary immensely depending on the context and resources are assembled in temporary systems, often called projects. Deliberation covers a whole miscellany of unprogrammed activities that make up professional and managerial work that goes beyond the exclusive concentration on decision making. Deliberations reveal the cognitive techniques that result in decisions as outcomes. Advanced computer and communications technologies have expanded the capacity for deliberation beyond the walls of the organization, resulting in Wave 3 of Socio-technical design. According to Trist, this allows for far higher levels of complexity to be comprehended, prodigious amounts of information to be rapidly summarized and retrieved and many alternatives compared without incurring intolerable fatigue, and all these data and analyses checked and shared with an immediacy hitherto impossible. Thus deliberations strengthened by these technologies are used to cope with an increasingly turbulent environment. Trist says that this allows knowledge workers to address more topics at higher levels of competence and accomplish more of the work that has always been left undone because it was too difficult or too time-consuming, hoping that the urgent will less often drive out the important. However, Trist says this can’t happen without a figure-ground reversal in the social sphere from static positions that delineate the responsibilities of the officeholders and their authority to discharge them. These positions confer ownership of expertise and access to privileged knowledge in ways that falsely politicize the resolution of complex issues dependent on pooled knowledge and interpositional and trans-organizational collaboration. The discretionary coalitions brought into existence by deliberations yield a novel organizing principle in relation to which the static positions of the organization chart become scaffolding and retreat into the background. Roger Martin in Rethinking the Decision Factory, in an HBR October 2013 blog suggested the same. Trist says that self-managing teams + project work + deliberations form the complete organizational alternative to traditional technocratic bureaucracy. Wave Two: 1970’s-1990’s Wave Three: 1990’s-Present

6 Evolution of Sociotechnical Systems Wave One: 1950’s-1970’s
Nature of the Work Design Principles* Routine work in single organizations Work groups with shared identity Single linear conversion process Joint optimization Compatibility Sociotechnical criterion and variance control Boundary location Information flow Design and human values Multifunctional principle: mechanism or organism Support congruence Transitional organization Minimum critical specification Incompletion * Albert Cherns, 1976

7 Evolution of Sociotechnical Systems Wave Two: 1970’s-1990’s
Nature of the Work Design Principles** Non-routine face-to- face knowledge work in single organizations Individual performers with specialized expertise Multiple, concurrent nonlinear conversion processes Joint optimization Self-design by the members of the unit being changed Specify only those things that must be defined allowing for ongoing adaptation Multi-functionality and redundancy of functions Iterative and open- ended design process * Cal Pava, 1983

8 Evolution of Sociotechnical Systems Wave Three: 1990’s- Present
Nature of the Work Design Principles Virtual, non-routine work Work and workers distributed across multiple locations and/or organizations Information and communication technology enabled Multiple, concurrent, nonlinear, independent, and interdependent conversion processes An iVUCA world*** Whole systems optimization Align on shared purpose and mutually beneficial outcomes Promote dignity, meaning, challenge, mastery, autonomy, and self- determination Foster learning and knowledge sharing Supportive infrastructure and coordination system Minimum critical specifications Participative, iterative, real- time design, and mutual adaptation *** Interconnected, Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous

9 STS Designing for Non-linear Knowledge Work
Design By Principles With new technologies, design is increasingly becoming the product itself created through a complex network of entities. It is the ideas behind the products (now made more and more by machines) that make the difference between success and failure. Ideas can’t be organized the way physical objects can; people must be inspired to create and innovate. Competitive advantage is becoming an issue of not just actions, but beliefs. People are most likely to coalesce into groups of avid participants (high-performing employees, buyers, consumers, cause-backers, etc.) if the organization taps their strongest interests, talents and temperament through principles. Design By Context Contexts are simple maps or frames that help us deal with complexity. They help to describe and handle certain parts of reality, but are not the reality itself. You can never fully understand complexity, but you can frame it within a certain context to solve a particular problem. The paradox is that by keeping the design frame simple, we can tackle complexity at every level.

10 Informed Decisions and Action
Critical Design Elements for Designing Non-Routine Knowledge Work By Principles Informed Decisions and Action New Insights Pool of Shared Knowledge Deliberations* Coordinating System* * Based on STS values and principles.


12 Three Contexts For Design
Vertically Integrated Decentralized Organization Value Realization Network Issue-based Ecosystem vs. Large institutional programs vs. Vertically integrated centralized organization vs.. Traditional Supply Chains




16 Key Unit of Analysis -> Deliberations
Deliberations are patterns of exchange and communication in which people engage with themselves or others to reduce the equivocality of a problematic issue. The salient elements of a deliberation include the … Topics or problematic issues facing the social entity about which people reflect and communicate Forums in which they occur which may structured, semi-structured, or unstructured or ad hoc Participants both those who are currently involved and those who ideally should be involved in the deliberation. Coalitions whose purpose is to obtain the best outcomes from the inputs of multiple perspectives, a novel organizing principle, which pushes the static positions of the organization chart into the background. Deliberations they are not decisions. They are a more continuous process from which decisions may emerge. Deliberations are not meetings which are gatherings of people. They are often one of the forums in which deliberations occur. Deliberations are encounters, exchanges and reflections that help resolve an equivocal topic. Developing an understanding of the perspective of each party in the deliberation helps to ensure all points of view of what is valued on the topic are present in the deliberation Participants hold divergent perspectives that constitute the reciprocal values that must be balanced in dynamic coalitions. Parties who characteristically take divergent positions are identified as well as those in unity and those in convergence. Coalitions bring together those in unity and those in contention over the issue at hand to hold the tension so that a breakthrough innovation can occur. These coalitions can be thought of as networks that are formed to balance opposite interests in order to produce intelligent trade-offs in the deliberation. Conflicting perspectives are best resolved when one focuses on issues vs. people, on interests vs. positions, and from a "win-win" context. Pava, 1983

17 Knowledge Work - the R&D Continuum
Pure Research Work DON’T KNOW WHAT we are looking for HOW to carry out the research Applied Research Work (i.e. end state or objective) KNOW Exploratory Development Work to achieve it Advanced Development Work IN DETAIL Start-Up (pilot plants, beta testing) Development Work CONCEPTUALLY Scale-Up (volume & costs) Development Work HOW OPERATIONALLY R 1 2 D 4 3 We all know knowledge work as primarily R&D work. This slide describes the different kinds of R&D work on a continuum. With Scale-Up Development work, this transitions the work to the routine production system.

18 Deliberations Across the Knowledge Generation Continuum
MYSTERIES HEURISTICS ALGORITHMS R1-R2 Breakthroughs D1-D2 Enhancements and Extensions D3-D4 Optimization of Execution Sense Making Solution Generation High Uncertainty Exploratory Focus on effectiveness Don’t know WHAT, don’t know HOW Informal mutual adjustment Value Realization Solution Delivery Low Uncertainty Prescriptive Focus on efficiency Know WHAT, know HOW Negotiated plans, SOPs, results

19 Coordination Complexity Across the Breakthrough-Optimization Continuum
Adapted from Mintzberg. If the knowledge barriers are to be managed or mitigated, our comparative study would appear to indicate a phenomenon that “many of the mechanisms that function to coordinate work in a co-located setting are absent or disrupted in a distributed project”. Thus, the focus on appropriate and augmented coordination mechanisms is even more critical in virtual work, at whatever stage across the continuum. Mystery Heuristic Algorithm

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