The essential book on management from the man who invented the discipline


17 - Making Work Productive and the Worker Achieving


The product, work, is different from the creative act, working. Work is outside of ones self while working is wholly internal.

Work is different than play, even though the activity may be the same, when the acceptance criteria are determined by an external party capable of making demands.

Managers must manage both the work and the working. The external and the internal.


Management is and has to be a power… Any power needs restraint and control—or else it becomes tyranny.

Restraint of middle management is increasingly needed since they are most often not interested in profits but in power.


Managing knowledge work and the knowledge worker is undoubtedly a more challenging task. However, it is unencumbered by convention, history, and tradition thus allowing better policies and procedures to be established.

Self-motivation and direction are required for performant knowledge work. Fear is of no use in managing the knowledge worker—not that it was all that effective for manual laborers but it could be substituded for management.


Knowledge workers used to work in isolation and yet they now work in concentration.

Knowledge work is difficult to define and measure because of the complexity of the problems. Therefore, achievement, and what that means, rests largely with the individual.


Work needs to provide for achievement and non-material benefits because it is no longer a subsistence but a life.


Drucker states that there are six factors important to knowledge worker productivity:

  1. Determining “what is the task” is at least as important as the work itself
  2. Autonomy and therefore responsibility for productivity by the knowledge worker is paramount
  3. Innovation continually
  4. Continuous learninng and teaching
  5. Quality is at least as important as quantity
  6. Treated as an asset rather than as a cost center

These are almost the exact opposite of what are needed to increase the productivity of manual labor


Productivity in knowledge work is not achieved through quantity but through quality. Quality is central and is in the very nature of the work whereas with manual work it only serves as a restraining/minimum.

In knowledge work, the key question is “what is the task?” since defining the task is the most important step to making the work more efficient since it constrains the work.

On the other hand, in manual labor the most important question is “how should the work be done?” since the task is already known. Oftentimes knowledge workers focus on the wrong question, “How”, since it is where all fo the shiny toys are. This results in greatly reduced productivity.

In knowledge work, it is more difficult to focus the worker on the task since it does not by its nature compel the worker to act. In fact, there are enumerable distractions for the knowledge worker, all of which distract from the true task. Hence why it is important to define the task. Critical knowledge work questions: * What is your task? What should it be? * What would you be expected to contribute? * What hampers you in doing your task and should be eliminated?

Asking these questions usually doubles or triples knowledge worker productivity.


Eliminate the things that make knowledge worker’s unproductive: “chores” and measure the result. Time spent programming, refect rate, etc

The knowledge worker must have autonomy which requires responsibility for their contributions. That entails how they would be accountable in terms of quality and quantity. Continuous innovation, learning, and teaching must be built into the process.


When defining quality in the realm of the knowledge worker, the main problem is the definition of the task and not in measuring quality.


Many organizations treat their workers as interchangeably disposable. However, turnover is costly (Henry Ford raised wages and doubled profits), especially when the knowledge workers owns the means of production (their mind). their knowledge worker’s should be considered a capital asset and not a cost. The relationship is symbolic.