Oct 30, 2009

Knowledge Work and Collaboration



A very insightful article in McKinsey's What matters column on the challenges of measuring productivity of collaboration in Knowledge workers, and also insightful comments.

Primarily the article argues that while technology is deployed - productivity of collaboration is different than the way productivity is measured in the traditional deployment of technology.

The article states:

Our research suggests that improvements depend upon getting a better fix on who actually is doing the collaborating within companies, as well as understanding the details of how that interactive work is done. Just as important is deciding how to support interactions with technology—in particular, Web 2.0 tools such as social networks, wikis, and video. There is potential for sizeable gains from even modest improvements. Our survey research shows that at least 20 percent and as much as 50 percent of collaborative activity results in wasted effort. And the sources of this waste—including poorly planned meetings, unproductive travel time, and the rising tide of redundant e-mail communications, just to name a few—are many and growing in knowledge-intense industries.

The steps the article suggests are:


  1. Defining knowledge workers and how they work
  2. Applying technologies



I would add that other support processes and structures followed by the organization must be analysed to understand how it is impacting collaboration too.

One of the main issues that become bottlenecks is the disincentive to collaborate and a tact approval or even explicit reward system that focuses on contra-behaviors.

For example if a new worker sees that the people being praised and held up as star performers are lone workers - that becomes a very strong reinforcing psychological mechanism to not collaborate.