Changing Services: Clients, Quality, and Collaboration
Michael G. Prais, Ph.D., Northern Illinois University, 1993

4. The Knowledgeable Manager

The manager is a knowledge worker with a special role in an organization of knowledge workers. A federation requires strong workers and strong managers --both knowledge workers. The workers are operatives that affect the necessary changes for clients. The manager processes information from and for other workers in his or her organization. Managers are operatives that affect the necessary changes in the system that defines the work that the organization does. The manager is responsible for setting direction, identifying objectives, setting priorities, planning changes, coordinating activities, and arranging support for the local organization. Effective managers have well organized plans, high performance goals, and a highly supportive style.

Deming is particularly vehement that most problems in an organization are not the result of or under the control of the workers, but that they are problems with the system which is under control of the manager. Managers must think through objectives, set priorities, concentrate on them, and, in time, evaluate the consequences of their decisions. Drucker feels that management should function to provide workers with measurements and controls that they can use to improve quality. Since the workers are knowledgeable, management should select and make significant those measurements and controls that have been developed with workers to improve quality. To develop these measures and controls, both the worker and the manager must recognize the importance of client expectations and must understand the whole organization. In effect the worker must be a manager himself or herself and the manager must be a worker with a unique focus-- the manager's client is the organization.

The manager controls the resources of the organization so that the work done today reduces the uncertainly of reaching the objectives of the organization tomorrow. This requires that the manager make effective the small core of worthwhile activities capable of being effective, and make organization capable of change and prolonged existence. The resources consist of the staff, their time, their tools, and their training. Available resources are certainly scarce, so a manager must decide how the organization is to behave to gain the fullest benefit of them. Drucker suggests that nothing is ever accomplished unless scarce resources are concentrated on a small number of priorities.

In deciding what must be done by the organization, the manager must organize responsibilities of the workers. This can be accomplished by answering a simple set of questions: WHAT is expected to change? WHY is the change needed? (What are the positive and negative consequences and who is affected?) WHO is responsible for the change? WHEN must the change occur relative to other activity? WHERE must the change be made? One final question must be answered by the worker: HOW is the change accomplished? To answer these questions, the manager must already know what is the purpose of the organization today and what will be the purpose of the organization tomorrow. The purpose of the organization determines the activities necessary for excellence, success, survival, and failure.

In organizing responsibilities, the manager develops perspectives, values, and assumptions into observations, standards, and process controls. Processes function stably over time when situations presented to the process can be understood as simple, orderly, and routine so that instructions for making new decisions need not be developed. Control of a process is developed through feedback. Controls are used to identify exceptions so that they can be returned to the process or eliminated. Feedback is information about the output that is used with the input to reduce variation. The purpose of the control is to affect the work not the worker. Problems occur when measurements of the production process do not provide sufficient information for the worker to control the process, and personal supervision and control of the worker must be substituted. Supervision traditionally emphasizes power and authority as methods of control. These methods can be avoided when workers are given information about the process, authority to change the work, responsibility for completion, and accountability for the consequences.

In directing an organization, a manager must also provide feedback to the workers on how he or she is contributing to the objectives of the organization. Feedback in a nonproduction sense is the most effective way to direct, control, if you must, an organization. In production, communication between the process and the controller is one directional--the product does not affect the worker. However, in an organization both the worker and the manager are in process of changing, and communication must be fed back and accepted in both directions. To assume that a worker like a product can be controlled and changed without a simultaneous control and change of a manager is a major mistake for a modern organization.

5. Collaboration

Originally published in Proceedings of the ACM User Services Conference XXI, 1993.
Copyright Association for Computer Machinery 1993
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