FPC's course system is established on the understanding of knowledge-based work.
Any knowledge-based work can be divided into three key phases, i.e. decision, implementation and delivery. The results of the work can be explained with the underlying reasons in the three phases. Based on the three phases, knowledge workers are required to be competent in eight aspects to ensure the delivery of desired results. FPC developed a series of courses to develop the abilities in the eight aspects.
Three stages of knowledge-based work
All work, in agriculture, manufacturing, information processing or in any other form, has three different phases.
Firstly, one must determine the content and object, i.e. what he wants to grow, manufacture or process.
All work should be based on the ending.
What result do we expect after we put our efforts into the work? For farming or manufacturing jobs, it is quite clear and direct. However, for knowledge-based work or services, it is often vague and unclear. Plagued by short-term work on hand, knowledge workers seem to get lost in terms of the long-term goals.
Once the decision is made, the work should be implemented. The land needs to be tilled and cultivated; the products need to be manufactured and the information needs to be processed and transacted.
Once the job is completed, the results need to be delivered to internal or external customers. Until then can we know whether the job meets the demand of the customers.
In 1920s, Alfred Sloan pioneered in organizational development in General Motors, whereas before that people tended to consider the three phases as a whole, which means that a worker could complete the three phases on his own. The "artisan" thinking was prevalent in a vast majority of workplaces. Sloan restructured the workplaces, resulting in three mutually exclusive groups, with each focusing on fulfilling one of the three phases.
In manufacturing industry, these three phases are relatively simple. As work is completed on the assembly line, each employee receives "input" at different stages in the process, and they are responsible for changing or processing the product before they pass it down to the next stage. Any decision for the improvement or change of the processes completely lies in the management level. Although the campaign of all-around quality management has changed this type of work, it does not change the basic processes.
Knowledge-based work has the same three phases: decision, implementation and delivery. But in each phase there exist more complex problems.
For knowledge workers, their work processes start with multiple "input": telephone, people, electronic documents, faxes, reports, to name but a few. For knowledge workers, the first step is to analyze. Similar to other work, decision-making should be based on the understanding of the final results; otherwise there would be no analytical standards in the face of the flood of information. Once there is no effective standard, this information will soon become rampant and out of control. In order to make wise and effective decisions, it is necessary to obtain new or different information, which would further increase the difficulty of the problem. Thus, the decision-making process would become extremely complex.
Once the decision is made, the implementation is by no means an easy task for knowledge workers, as their job is to transform the "object" rather than simply increase its value. For example, a viewpoint may be transformed into a memorandum, and a plan may come from a fax. This is not as simple as adding something to the existing work. In order to complete the work, knowledge workers usually have to deal with other people; but many people are not aware of how important it is to influence others if they want to do well in their work.
The neglect of communication or mutual influence is known as "white hole": the nodes on the corporate structure diagram, which are often lost in specific knowledge-based jobs such as projects, memoranda and reports. We now know that all work is part of the system and it occurs in a certain process. When a problem arises, more often than not it is one process or a series of processes, rather than people, that go out of control.
There is no doubt that the delivery of knowledge work is as complex as the first two phases. Writing a report or a plan alone and then turning it in is far from enough and these will only disappear in the "white hole". Knowledge workers in the delivery process must play the role of "executor". They need to actively get involved and see to it that their results can be effectively "transferred" to the appropriate recipients: the customers (internal or external customers).
What drives the knowledge-based work forward is the continuous improvement and learning by individuals and companies.
Once we are clear of the framework of knowledge-based work, we will have a deeper understanding of the processes that drive the work forward. After three years of careful research and investigation, we have identified eight processes that support all knowledge-based work. Each process is driven by a set of core capabilities, which mean a set of skills and abilities required for the completion of a process. For instance, the core capability required for the construction of a hut is to knock nails into wood with a hammer.
Eight capabilities for knowledge-based work
1. Identify the values, develop the vision and coordinate the two sides (draw up strategy)
Values and vision are a valuable "filter" for individual and organizational decision-making. Values explain why individuals or the company do what they are doing, and the vision indicates where we are going. All work must be based on the ending. This is obvious in the manufacturing sector, but when we deal with knowledge work it is not that clear. Few knowledge workers would stop and ask "Why?" or “What results do I want to achieve？" However, these are crucial questions for us to answer if we want to make effective decisions.
To put it simply, this process is the first step of highly-efficient work, requiring us to find out the target direction (where) and the reason (why). In this step, the goals and purposes of the work or the team are clearly defined.
2. Strategic Thinking (set goals)
Having a clear sense of direction or mission is the second important “filter” for effective decision-making. It shows that we are doing. It is strategic thinking that converts the vision into action on a daily basis. We must have a clearly-stated strategic plan to tell us what we are doing today and what we will do in the foreseeable future. We must continue to explore the future, to ensure that we are following the most effective way that leads us to the destination.
Therefore, strategic thinking refers to the ability of setting goals or final results, and drawing up the plans based on the goals and the final results. This step is used to determine the contents (what) and the methods (how)of our work. If there is no comprehensive plan, even the best wish is of no value. Without the guideline of the plan, the team will fall apart and lose its focus.
3. Focus on key resources and maintain flexibility (Plan and Organize)
Once the mission is identified, we must ensure that the appropriate resources (people, fund, equipments, time)are mobilized to support the fulfillment of the mission. In this way, we can focus on the quantification of the plans and ensure the effective use of scarce resources. There exists an inherent contradiction in this process. In order to achieve fruitful results, you must pool the resources; while at the same time you must maintain flexibility to make the best use of the opportunities. Only by consciously and continuously checking the allocation of resources, can you ensure the focus and flexibility.
We ought to be able to pool the limited resources that can be mobilized, and to maximize the potential of resources through creatively using resources. Resource management is a key part of effective work.
The above three processes constitute the "decisive" part of knowledge-based work. However, these skills are exactly what ordinary individuals are lacking. Usually we are concerned about how to make people efficient operators rather than decision-makers. In the traditionally hierarchical structure, it has always been the case that a few people decide the direction for the majority to follow. However, in the new context of empowerment, all individuals must get involved in their own decision-making, in order to perform effectively in a teamwork environment.
4. Priority management (manage effectiveness)
All knowledge-based work requires people to continuously balance the urgency and importance of the task or project. Effective priority management enables the company and individuals to do it right at a time, which is the ultimate test of the effectiveness of the work. The basis of priority management stems from vision, values and mission.
Priority management refers to the ability to deal with daily specific work. No matter what posts people hold, how to control the daily activities is essential for success. We must learn how to deal with multiple tasks, how to prioritize them and ensure that there are no negligence and omissions.
5. Balance quality and quantity: Q2 factor (customer orientation)
Q2 factor makes it possible to evaluate the results of work from two sides: how much work (quantity) has been done and how well (quality)it has been done. For most knowledge workers, high performance is the combination of quality and quantity, which is Q 2. Those who conduct and receive knowledge work must have a clear understanding of Q2. This process has a controlling effect in the knowledge-based work to a large extent.
It is a precondition for effective workers to understand the requirement of the quality and quantity of work. We must ensure that customers become the decision-makers of these factors, so we must learn to find out who are the most important customers and how to meet their needs.
"Priority management" and "Balance quality and quantity" constitute the "implementation" part of any work. We must help every individual to be aware of these skills and enhance their skills in these areas, because they are essential for the success of individuals or teams.
6. Awareness of master, sense of responsibility and bearing the consequences (promising results)
The goal of this process is to establish the awareness of master in every piece of work, regardless of their levels of posts, and regardless of difficulty and skills of the work. Managers and coaches ought to build partnerships with the actual implementer of the task and ensure that they have the awareness of master and devote themselves to the work, which can also help individuals and teams to develop a sense of responsibility and a positive attitude to bearing the consequences.
Here we explore how to obtain and give people the awareness of master, sense of responsibility and dependability. According to the skills in this process, individuals are differentiated into two categories: those who are passively involved and those who take the initiative to join in. In the context of empowerment, these skills are essential.
7. Influence others, and maintain sound interpersonal relationships (influence others)
To influence is a complex process that requires strong ability of communication and consultation. In flat corporate structure, the skills of influencing have become more important than ever. No knowledge workers can make outstanding achievements in the isolated state. As a team member, they must be able to influence the behavior and attitudes of others. The goal of this process is to fill the organization's "white hole".
For a closely collaborative team, the close cooperation of individuals is significant to the overall effectiveness of the team. As you have to deal with vastly different characters, this process is extraordinarily important.
"Awareness of master" and "Influence others" constitute the "delivery" part of knowledge-based work. We have to master these skills if we want to improve our capabilities in project management. If we fail to deliver the work satisfactorily to the next section, it may lead to omissions, delay, poor communication and coordination and it is impossible to build teams.
8. Continuous improvement of employees, product quality and process (continuous progress)
The purpose of the last set of skills is to ensure competitive advantage in a highly competitive environment. The power to drive the entire knowledge-based economy is the ability and desire for continuous improvement: the continuous improvement of everything in the organization. We must constantly ask ourselves whether the existing processes as well as our actions are truly effective? Knowledge workers must have the determination and confidence to challenge the status quo, to maintain competitive edge. Failure to maintain the growth and development of organizations and individuals could only result in one thing: gradually shrinking.