IDR Sustainable Workplace

Psychologically, commercially and environmentally viable organizations

Office management policies: Right on or ricin?

Some interesting questions from a Croatian banker led to the following letter concerning research into office management.  I hope this will be useful to you.  Happy Easter


Hello S,


Knowledge worker, schmolledge worker

You asked “How do you help a knowledge worker to direct himself toward performance?” Increasingly Drucker’s term is being abused.  What is a Knowledge Worker these days; a banker, a plumber, an academic, a nurse?  Generally Knowledge Worker is a term used by white collar management to mean simply “one of us” and therefore becomes a cover for justifying better treatment for ‘us’ than the people below us. 

So it usually a term best avoided.  People are the same, after all, whether a cleaner or a Knowledge Worker (few of ‘us’ clean and yet many of ‘us’ proselytize about the benefits of a clean space).  One does not grow an extra toe, add points to an IQ score or become a better person when one fires up the BMW in the morning. 

The best space in which to work

It is straightforward: If one can see one’s own identity realized within one’s own space then that is the best space in which to work.  This would seem to be true regardless of one’s business calling.  Conversely, the more of a corporate stamp and the less idiosyncrasy there is in a workspace the worse it is.  The science suggests that this holds true for both well-being and productivity.  So there are no conflicting goals here.  Our research has yet to find a space where people are too happy, or feel too comfortable.  Well-being and productivity (and latterly, creativity and effective intelligence) are strongly and positively correlated.

To be terse

You refer to Six Sigma.  Six Sigma is Motorola’s answer to lean.  The two both have their roots in Taylorism.  It may help to be a little more journalistic in language here just to re-emphasize the point.  The evidence continually points to lean and six sigma being about as healthy as ricin. The inescapable conclusion from peer review data is that lean poisons businesses from soup to nuts. 

Lean’s attraction is innate in-so-much and in-so-only as it empowers the managers that implement it.  Lean/Six Sigma enjoys no scientific support at all. The only evidence that supports lean is self-report. And somebody called Mandy Rice-Davies once said “They would say that wouldn’t they?”

This company is now rather good at running courses on improving well-being and understanding then maximizing productivity.  It would be a pleasure to run one for you should you be interested.  Alternatively, you may be interested in helping with some scientific research. As you may have picked up we are investigating how management and design of the business space now affects creativity and intelligence.  Neither option is expensive, each is likely to yield interesting, revealing and useful data for your business.

Have a fine holiday and hope to see you soon.

 Bye for now,


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