Knowledge at Work
Unleashing the power of knowledge workers
by Rosemarie Christopher
Knowledge workers want to make a difference. Making a difference usually requires some degree of collaboration. It’s easy to facilitate collaboration among colleagues when there are common attitudes and values driving the conversation. A shared understanding that service quality is the main objective—no matter the position held in the project or organization—is the foundation for success.
Service quality is defined as "a measure of how well the service level delivered matches customer expectations."1 It’s challenging to remember that delivering on service quality means meeting requirements of all internal and external customers on a consistent basis. We may forget that each collaborator in the organization is also a customer. Is this because we tend to view internal and external customers through different lenses? Are assumptions and demands regarding stakeholders arising from outdated work models?
Directive leadership that is characteristic of the command-and-control organizational structure ended with the Industrial Age. The knowledge worker originated from the Information Age. Today, there are four generations of knowledge workers in the workplace. The flatter the organization is, the more horizontal the information flow. Junior document control professionals are as important as the chief quality officer in realizing the shared goal of consistently delighting internal and external customers.
There are numerous ways that knowledge workers can apply influential leadership principles and practices in their work to create stronger collaboration and better quality:
- Realize that all employees are in it together and are dependent on, and accountable to, one another.
- Appreciate differences in work styles. Knowledge workers from different generations, functions, ethnicities and socioeconomic backgrounds bring rich insight to the workplace. Cultural sensitivity requires a focus on shared attitudes, standards and values rather than differences.
- Develop the ability to actively listen. Understanding the views of others leads to better results. Participants can agree around the central goal—delivering consistently on quality.
- Understand that tension and conflicting views are not all bad or good. Everyone has a brain and wants to use it.
- Demonstrate you’re the right person for the right job. Be strategic and have a plan and communicate it well.
- Mentor and reverse mentor. Train others and be trainable.
- Motivate yourself and others. Commit to making a difference.
- Build bonds with colleagues that are built on trust, integrity, ethics and collaboration. High degrees of trust are integral to smooth operations and projects.
For quality professionals, delivering high-quality products or services that consistently satisfy internal and external customers is ideal. In this new economy, project-by-project employment is becoming the norm rather than the exception. For the full-time employee, continued employment is a chance to influence the direction of a department, division or organization. For the consultant, referrals to new clients or extensions of existing contracts provide satisfaction and security. In both instances, knowledge workers can make a real difference and garner meaningful engagement and fulfillment.
- Robert C. Lewis and Bernard H. Booms, "The Marketing Aspects of Service Quality," Emerging Perspectives on Services Marketing, American Marketing Association, 1983, pp. 99-107.
Rosemarie Christopher is an organizational communications consultant and the president and CEO of MEIRxRS, a family of science, technology, engineering and math recruitment and staffing organizations in Glendale, CA. Christopher also consults organizations on effective communication within their workforce. She has a master’s degree in communication management from the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. Christopher is an ASQ member and chair of the ASQ Food, Drug and Cosmetic Division.