Jeremy Aarons has blogged the draft of a new paper, Supporting organisational knowledge work: Integrating thinking and doing in task-based support by Jeremy Aarons, Henry Linger & Frada Burstein.
They start by referencing Davenport’s classification structure for knowledge-intensive processes, which analyses knowledge work along the two axes of complexity and interdependence:
However they then go on to criticise this as an analytic model on the grounds that much complex work often fits into more than one box. In particular, they suggest that work which (by the Davenport classification) is largely within the Integration Model often has elements requiring significant precision and judgement from indivduals – in other words mixes in work from the Expert model.
They suggest then that a more appropriate guiding framework is Burstein and Linger’s Task-Based Knowledge Management, which considers knowledge work as an inherently collaborative activity which mixes pragmatic “doing” work into a conceptual “thinking” framework. In this approach the focus is on supporting rather than managing knowledge-work. The authors express this using the following diagram:
A task-based model of work
(From Aarons (2006)
The rest of the paper is devoted to a case study within the Australian Weather Service which supports the mixed approach, and yields examples of failed business systems which focussed only on the forecast-production aspect of the forecasting task. These are compared with a successful and hugely-popular system which started as a maverick, ground-up project and which expressly addressed and supported the creation and maintenance of conceptual models of weather. This system, which is now the system of choice, only addressed the production of output forecasts as a piece of auxiliary functionality.