Agile, Business Performance Consulting, People, Project Management

Agile Knowledge Work: a Book Introduction

How much of yourself are you at work? Did you know that most people try to be someone else M-F 8:30-5PM for the majority of their adult lives? On the weekend they try to relax back into who they really are only to find that this happens on Sunday afternoon when they’re gearing back up for work on Monday. Isn’t life too short to spend it being someone you’re not?

This is the first of a series of posts based on the ideas in the book, Beyond Management, Taking Charge at Work, by Mark Addleson. It’s a series about different ways we can work to not only produce far greater results but also live a happier lives and a real existence doing what we care about.

The book Beyond Management is based on the premise that the systems and structures that we call “management” are obsolete. They were developed during the industrial era for manufacturing and factories. Devised for producing goods efficiently, management practices are geared to solving technical, left-brain, problems. The kind of problems that occur when production is highly mechanical, work is repetitive and people work in isolation.

The book is based on the argument that work has changed but the way we manage has not. That knowledge workers organize themselves in creative and agile ways to tackle and network by interacting and sharing information, making decisions collectively.

For this series, we will be looking only at applying the techniques and ideas from this book to the knowledge work concept and not manufacturing or repetitive work environments. (We have enough of a challenge ahead!)

To orient ourselves with the book we need to become familiar with two different views. The view from the top which is where the Directors and Executive sit and ‘look down’ on the workers, helping them to set targets and be more efficient. Then there is the view from the practice. This view is entirely different. It is what is going on in the work itself.

Have you ever worked on a project team and noticed how there are people on the ‘inside track’ and those on the outside? What differentiates those on the inside and those on the outside? The knowledge workers are ‘in the know’. They self-organize and problem solve together.

I myself have been managing projects, programs and organizations for over a decade so I have some de-programming to do. I also want to do this in a way that keeps the discipline and good habits of experience but makes space for new ideas.

There are many questions the book does not answer. While management breakdowns are evident around us, we also know traditional management is a crutch that much of the world still relies on. I hope you’ll join me in bringing up questioning traditional management as we explore new ideas. 

Summary of points:

  • This is a first in a series based on the ideas in the book, Beyond Management, Taking Charge at Work, by Mark Addleson.
  • Knowledge work is about people collaborating to achieve an outcome, not how to make the cogs turn faster.
  • Two paradigms co-exist: “View from the Top” vs. “View from within the practice”
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