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Next Taylorism

A Calculus of Knowledge Work


Lukas Scheiber

In 1911, Frederick W. Taylor published one of the most outstanding scientific cornerstones for the production system of the 20 th century – The Principles of Scientific Management. Today, industrial production is confronted with a change towards knowledge-intensive and transformable production systems, which are characterized by knowledge work. A Taylor-based reconception of knowledge work has to develop an understanding of knowledge work as a special form of communication. The corresponding scientific background for such an endeavor can be found in system theory and second-order cybernetics. The book conceptualizes the organization of knowledge work for the first time as a function which coordinates and controls knowledge work from within and which initially discusses and applies methods, the so-called MXM, on the knowledge workers.


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7. Next Taylorism: Coordination and Control of Knowledge Work


The most important contribution management needs to make in the 21st century is similarly to increase the productivity of knowledge work and knowledge workers. The most valuable assets of a 20th century company was its production equipment. The most valuable asset of a 21st century institution (whether business or nonbusiness) will be its knowledge workers and their productivity. Peter F. Drucker (1999: 79) The exploration of Taylorism has represented our goal to deconstruct the approach into its elementary distinctions in order to gain insight in its fundamental operations and limitations. What can we learn from this paradigm and how can we abductively combine these described new facts of knowledge work with system-theoretical rules? We will have to define the primary distinctions, re-entries and unmarked spaces of knowledge work. Additionally, we will give a demonstrative example in the realms of social network analysis which serves as both an application and an initial test of knowledge workers productivity. Conclusively, we have to clearly outline its functions that have to be fulfilled. In general, a knowledge-intensive production company of today cannot be managed and consistently programed by Taylorism and the corresponding push principle of production. The following figure outlines this and combines levels of complexity as well as social and technical systems. 116 Figure 19: The Taylor Well: An Historical Report of Complexity (with reference to Wohland a. Wiemeyer 2007: 23) The Taylor-Well establishes a qualitative link between temporarily batched paradigms of production and the corresponding complexity that the whole organization has to...

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