Pattern-Based Task Management as Means of Organizational Knowledge Maturing

Pattern-Based Task Management as Means of Organizational Knowledge Maturing

Uwe V. Riss (SAP Research, Germany)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-783-8.ch820
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Knowledge work has been declared the central paradigm of the new century (Drucker, 1994). However, it is a misunderstanding to see a knowledge worker as a person whose work is explained by the fact that he or she requires knowledge for it. We rather find that knowledge is a critical factor in any kind of work. The central feature of knowledge work is rather the velocity with which persons who pursue such occupation have to update and extend their knowledge to keep pace with the speed of business and scientific development. Moreover, this updated and extended knowledge often determines the way how knowledge workers actually proceed. For instance, if an unexpected problem occurs, they must find a solution and adapt the work process appropriately. We find that knowledge workers’ actions consist in the processing of information while at the same time information determines the flow of these actions. Consequently knowledge workers have to constantly learn. In addition, they have to do this in an informal and self-controlled manner (Pinchot & Pinchot, 1996). Due to the increasing importance of knowledge work it is crucial for organizations to support their knowledge workers as efficiently as possible. However, this requires new ways of thinking and using technology.

Any support of knowledge work must be based on a thorough understanding of its nature. One controversy in this respect is the question whether the required knowledge can be treated as an object or must be handled as a process – see, for example, the discussion in (Gourlay 2006). Indeed this question is far from academic and cannot be answered by simply deciding for one of the two options; we rather have to support both sides of knowledge. While the management of knowledge objects or artifacts such as electronic documents or person profiles can look back to a long history of more or less successful approaches in Information Technology (IT), the support of the dynamic side is less well understood and technically leveraged. The central question in this respect is how we actually handle knowledge as a process and support knowledge work in this respect.

Hereby a central insight is the understanding of the mutual dependence of knowledge and action (Riss, 2005). Knowledge without its actualization in action is pointless while action requires knowledge to be predictable and controllable. Moreover, action is the most important source of knowledge – we learn by doing. This raises the question how people’s knowledge and actions work together in organizations and how this interaction can be intensified. Most technologies that support actions are focused on the execution of tasks and processes. Task management (TM) and process aware information systems (PAIS) effectively support the flow of work, however, they mainly disregard knowledge management (KM). These systems mostly rely on predesigned support of work activities – even if they focus on knowledge work – but largely neglect the question how in return work activities can be used to collect work experience and how the latter can then be reused in processes again.

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