What defines the task in knowledge work? Peter Drucker answers!

The knowledge worker should as “What do I get paid to do?” and “What should I get paid for?”

Peter Drucker was interested in knowledge worker productivity. He considered it a management challenge of the 21st century. In non-knowledge work, or manual work, the task is always given. What is made on the assembly line is not up to the choice of the assembly line worker. That is not the same issue that knowledge workers, including HR, have. What or who decides the work of a knowledge worker?

Personal control

Knowledge workers are not programmed by a machine, at least not yet. They are, for the most part, in control of their own tasks. Yes there may be certain things that have to be done, but knowledge work in not moving down an assembly line towards the worker dictating the work. Drucker says “For they, and only they, own and control the most expensive of the means of production- their education and their most important tool- their knowledge.”
Naturally knowledge workers use other tools, such as the HRIS, , but it is their knowledge that decides how these tools are being used and for what. Applying their knowledge they know what steps are important and what methods need to be used to complete the tasks being undertaken. They also use that same knowledge to understand what tasks are unnecessary and should be eliminated.

Proper questions to ask

Drucker says that there is a series of questions that should be asked of knowledge workers. These include:

  1. What is your task?
  2. What should it be?
  3. What should you be expected to contribute?
  4. What hampers you in doing your task and should be eliminated?

Basically it is defining your work by asking yourself “What do I get paid for?” and “What should I get paid for?”
The “how” of your work will come from answering the “what” of your work.
As you get lost in your work due to shifting priorities you can always re-center yourself by looking at these questions and providing current answers.

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