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At the core of management is the knowledge worker. I spent some time recently renewing my inner manager, which of course for me meant reading some of my favorite Peter Drucker. Over the next few posts I’ll be sharing some of Drucker’s ideas that are top of mind for me. So, if you’re thinking about management you’re implicitly thinking about knowledge workers.

In the assembly line of knowledge work, one person’s output of ideas, concepts, and theories is another person’s input. For example, were I a salesman, what I learn directly from my customers becomes input for the product manager. The product manager synthesizes all of the input she receives from salesmen and incorporates it into a future product user needs analysis she outputs to the R&D manager. She, in turn, asks one of her engineers to evaluate a set of technologies that might be applied to create products to  satisfy those user needs and then outputs those to the finance manager for a product costing analysis. This simplified illustration continues as one’s output becomes input for another.

But what is the right nature of a knowledge worker’s output? The short answer is effectiveness—and effectiveness means turning concepts into results. The information, ideas, and theories that a knowledge worker outputs should meet one test: Does it achieve business results as defined by the organization? By this measure, activity that is interesting and requires deep thought is only worthwhile if it contributes to the results of the organization. So next time you’re considering what to work on, or how useful what you’re working on now is, ask yourself, “How will my work create results for my organization?”


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