An interesting comment made by chiefalchemist on my post about “The Litmus Test for Leaders: What Am I Tracking?” deserves wider attention: “The structure of the 20th century was as much a reflection of the characteristic of the human resources, as it was of the needs of the business. That is, silos and one-dimensional job descriptions came about because they had to (given human nature and the talent available) not because any owner/leader wanted them to. For leadership to become agile, so must the entire workforce – not just the knowledge workers.”
As I explain in my book, The Leader’s Guide to Radical Management (Jossey-Bass, 2010), back in the early 20th Century, traditional management was a function of the available human resources, i.e. semi-skilled labor. And so the task of management become one of turning all work into semi-skilled work.
Today the situation is very different. Much of the semi-skilled work is being done by machines. The workforce is now educated and also hyper-connected through social media with what is going on in the world. And the customers are no longer willing to put up with average products and services. They have to be delighted.
As a result, the task of management has become the opposite. Instead of turning all work into routinized semi-skilled work, it’s the opposite: it involves turning all work into work focused on delighting customers, i.e. knowledge work, which in turn requires committed knowledge workers. In effect, all work becomes knowledge work.
As Toyota [TM] has shown, there is no such thing as unskilled labor: there is only work to which intelligence has yet to be applied.