Guidelines for managing knowledge-intensive organizations

During the past twenty years, a vast amount of academic work has been done in the area of managing knowledge-intensive organizations.

Our recent literature review synthesizes the discussion on the management of knowledge-intensive organizations and answers two research questions: first, what are the key characteristics of knowledge-intensive organizations and knowledge work, and second, what are the main managerial issues that originate from the nature of knowledge-intensive organizations?

As its pragmatic outcome, our study provides a managerial checklist that helps to recognize some of the key aspects relevant for managing knowledge-intensive organizations. The core findings are stated in the form of guidelines for managing knowledge-intensive organizations:

  1. An important starting point is that the management should acknowledge the important role of knowledge as the key value driver for modern business. This sensitivity towards knowledge-based phenomena guides managers’ actions and helps keep these intangible phenomena on their agenda.
  2. Knowledge is a challenging management object but there are plenty of management frameworks and practical tools available in the literature that can help managers cope with it.
  3. It is vital to understand that although knowledge is regarded as an important value driver, just having knowledge does not automatically lead to success. The key is the business model that transforms the knowledge assets into outcomes valued by the customer.
  4. Autonomous knowledge workers should understand the objectives of their work thoroughly in order for them to be able to make sound decisions and to find meaningfulness in their work. The role of management is important in setting and communicating about the objectives.
  5. Knowledge workers should be allowed to choose the ways of working they feel best fits the task at hand and the working style of the person in question. This relates to both the effectiveness and the experienced meaningfulness of work tasks.
  6. Managers should focus their attention to the desired outcomes of work and evaluate employees in relation to them – not in relation to input factors or the way work has been done.
  7. Service value and the outcomes experienced by the customer are among of the most important organizational goals. In order to capture the value of knowledge-based service activities, managerial attention needs to extend to cover the actions of the customer and the wider service system.
  8. Continuous learning and renewal of individual and organizational practices and processes is necessary in a constantly evolving environment. A proactive attitude in questioning the existing ways of doing things is valuable.

The list above is, naturally, not comprehensive. There are countless context-specific management issues that are not included. Similarly, there may be situations in which these guidelines are invalid. Nevertheless, we feel that such a list may be useful as a checklist for acknowledging some of the key aspects that are relevant in managing knowledge-intensive organizations.

This blog is based on a co-authored publication:

Lönnqvist, A. and Laihonen, H. (2017) “Management of knowledge-intensive organizations: what do we know after twenty years of research?International Journal of knowledge-based development, 8(2), 154-167

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