Are knowledge worker skills key to the future of project managers?

toolboxesKnowledge workers are often the core of your organisation. According to Thomas Davenport, “Knowledge workers have high degrees of expertise, education, or experience, and the primary purpose of their jobs involves the creation, distribution or application of knowledge.” Thinking for a Living: How to Get Better Performances And Results from Knowledge Workers.

In a recent knowledge management in action article called the Revelations about the new competencies of Knowledge Workers José Carlos points out that “We face larger projects every time, which are becoming more complex and time-critical; these facts further increase the challenges we face”.

“However, the solution is not to have just enough knowledge, but we must ensure that today’s professionals gain the expertise to “create knowledge”, i.e. have the capacity to undertake a process of meaningful and permanent learning, taking into practice a set of tools, strategies and tactics that will serve as learning tools to achieve effective learning and quality. They must put into action autonomous learning modes. Ultimately, the goal is to “learn to learn” and also, to share learning.”

We all know that there are a range of skills associated with good project management.  And in a recent discussion in the project and programme management community of practice on the Knowledge Hub asked “What makes a ‘good’ project manager?”

The discussion included skills such as leadership, influencing, listening, coaching, communication, empathy, people etc.  All skills gained from experience and the sharing of that experience with other.

Based on this Jose’s idea, knowledge workers need to manage the majority of their work as projects.  So in some ways you could say the main task of the knowledge worker is managing projects.

They may not be the large projects but as Dr Martin Barnes, APM President 2003-2012 points out ‘At its most fundamental, project management is about people getting things done.’ These could be any manner of work based project.

So what does this mean in reality?

Project managers could soon be a tradesman with a limited toolbox unless they work on their knowledge skills.

Secondly, that project managers need to learn to direct knowledge flows while they are managing their projects. That means prioritising, periodically reviewing strategy and resources and ensuring that the intended benefits and learning are shared.

So how can you improve your knowledge skills?

A key activity for the APM Knowledge SIG this year will be a research project to look at:

  • how do organisations manage knowledge within and between projects?
  • how good are they at managing knowledge?
  • what would help organisations become better at managing knowledge?


We know some organisations are great a creating knowledge stocks (such as lessons learned databases) but what about knowledge flows, which we believe are more valuable?

If you would like (your organisation) to get involved please contact us

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