Knowledge work and micro-processes

[cross-posted at Fast Forward blog]

Recently, I sat through a presentation about a Sharepoint-based intranet project to improve processes within the HR group of a medium-sized organization. The process in question was one of collecting annual performance reviews throughout the organization. Using Sharepoint, the HR group and their consultants replaced Word documents, spreadsheets, and email with Infopath forms and programmatic workflows. The client was happy and the consultants had a nice demo they could show to their prospects. Nonetheless, I found myself dissatisfied.

For all the new technology deployed, this effort struck me as an example of what my old friend and mentor Benn Konsynski calls "speeding up the mess." This HR process is an instance of the micro-processes that comprise knowledge work activities in organizations.

Other examples might include:

  • Customizing an existing sales presentation for a meeting with a new prospect
  • Designing the agenda and preparing materials for an internal brainstorming meeting
  • Putting together the briefing materials for a quarterly business review meeting
  • Analyzing and making sense out of a competitor