Work and Working

In my knowledge management class last night, we covered the issue of knowledge work from many different angles, including whether it exists at all.  One of the topics that came up in our readings was a differentiation between work and working (and workers). 

Work is the output of some activity: the end result that I can then give to someone else.  Working is everything that goes on to create that output: mental and physical activity.  It's a useful distinction in the discussion of knowledge work because we so frequently focus on the work product or the result of working, rather than the skill and knowledge that make the result possible.  And in thinking about making knowledge work more productive, it is the working that we need to improve, not necessarily the end products. 

artifactsThen along comes Lilia Efimova's post about her weblog research, where she distinguishes between artefacts and practices.  She's got some fun drawings of where she is going, and it highlights the nature of this work vs. working problem.  The end results (artifacts) show only a small portion of what happens in creating that artifact.  In thinking about this, I wonder if a deeper structure might be in play -- a deeper connection to context in which bloggers (or knowledge workers) operate.  Something like this drawing, where the visible is at the top of the pyramid and stuff below the waterline is the blogging culture and even deeper is the larger culture and context of the people doing blogging.  (Please draw something better - or point us to a better-looking drawing.  I need to spend more time, if I were to draw something pretty.)

2 Comment(s)

Chas Martin said:

Knowledge Management, in my estimation, is painfully boring. That is why the social networking idea has taken hold relatively quickly. It's not boring. People will share information with strangers in anecdotal form (story telling). They enjoy sharing facts, fears and links to other persepctives. This is people sharing and (in a different form) managing the transfer of knowledge. If that is what KM was originally intended to accomplish, social media has succeeded where KM systems have failed. My experience is that KM systems are as valuable as trash baskets. They provide a repository for information that sits undisturbed until it is disposed of eventually. If you have ever had to dig through a trash basket to retireve something, it's about as much fun as digging through a KM system for a piece of information.
I believe Lilia Efimova's suggestion may be correct. Social networks add a layer to knoweldge sharing that's been missing. If people find a reason to converse and share, they will eventually link to the information stored in the KM system. Others will find it because it was recommended, referenced, praised, criticized or somehow identified as worthy of attention.

Ton Zijlstra said:

Hi Jack,

Interesting distinction work and working.

In my work I often see organizations spending most of their mgmt energy on controlling working (making procedures so tight you have but one way to move), as a way to control the work (output). They do that by requiring additinal work (docs, reports whatever) on the way to the actual work (that's sold).

Me and my colleagues try to make them move towards having a lot of control and steering, but not on behaviour but on results. And having a lot of freedom and space for people to move around in (let them have their own working routines). Most orgs tend to treat control/steering and freedom/space as opposites. I'd say you'd have to maximize both to have a high ability to change as an org (my number 1 aspect for healthy orgs in this day and age).

Then we start looking with clients how to facilitate working, in order to make the work more effectively realized.

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