Monday, June 4, 2012

You Own the Means of Production


Times Are Changing

Peter Drucker was a management guru that helped define the essence of the subject: Management. In his almost hundred year lifetime, thirty one books and a career of eighty years, he was, and still is recognized as a writer, observer and in some cases profound influencer of organizations as we know it today. He is known for his uncommon and profound wisdom. This wisdom spanned almost the entire industrial age, right into the information age of today.
Drucker had a particular interest in the “Knowledge Worker”. It is a term that is credited to him and it refers to “...one who works primarily with information, or one who develops and uses knowledge in the workplace.”
The IT Professional is a Knowledge Worker.

Drucker left us with many observations. One in particular has stayed with me. He said: “The single greatest challenge executives will face over the next few years is to learn how to manage knowledge workers.” Drucker observes that the vast majority of companies manage employees as though the company still controlled the "means of production." 
In knowledge organizations, however, it is each worker's knowledge and intelligence that combine to form the means of production. The organization cannot control or own that. A worker can leave anytime, taking the means of production with him or her. 
This lead Drucker to conclude that we must learn to lead and manage people in a new way. Indeed, Drucker argues, we must look at companies in an entirely new way. If you, the IT Professional own the means of production, then inherently you are “the company”. Drucker goes on and reminds the knowledge worker, that even though they own the means of production and therefore in some cases can be considered “The Company”, that they also need the company. 
The knowledge worker is largely dependent on the structure and the association of fellow workers to effect results of benefit to customers. The organization of knowledge workers provides each participant a means to interface and a market for their knowledge and the result of their knowledge application, in a collective. The application or engagement of knowledge workers in an organized fashion is the primary purpose of the knowledge worker company, or in our case, the IT organization.
In this blog, I elaborate on the broad implications of the above for each one of us in this IT services industry.
The I.T. Professional’s Brand

Recognizing one owns the means for production initially brings a feeling of liberation. I can hear you say: “This means that I am inherently valuable. I can take what I have to offer anywhere, and be in demand.”
In principle you are right. Your talents, IT Role competence and tool knowledge and experience has value. This is a value that you can take wherever you go. It makes your marketable all over the world. No one can take it away from you. You are a product with the potential to effect an outcome for those that engage your activities. A tool that can produce results.
One of your key objectives should therefore be to continuously increase the value of your product - yourself. Your tool knowledge and the lessons you learn in your role speciality is continuously contributing to make you more attractive to employers and clients. 
I am often asked by IT Professionals how they can make themselves more valuable to their client or employer. How can they be in more demand and avoid becoming obsolete. 
The answers to this question is simple and yet it is often missed by people in our industry. Some of them include:
  • Love what you do. Find your niche in the vast process and role landscape of IT and specialize. If you love what you do, and it comes naturally to you, then you cannot help but become more and more valuable to the people that need your passion and your commitment to the cause. 
  • Realize that you are only potential. All your knowledge and experience is merely offering the promise of value. It is the application of this knowledge for a business benefit that makes you valuable. Simply put: It is not who you are, but what you do that is valuable to employers and clients. The results matter. If you can demonstrate positive and valuable outcomes due to your personal involvement, to prospective clients and employers, then you have something tangible to market.
  • Learn how to continuously innovate in a structured manner. Many top professionals are never satisfied with who they are, and what they’ve done. They always seek a way to improve on the past. They seek out the shoulders of giants to give them that extra push or opportunity to take matters further. They continuously make things better. I recommend you study and adopt some techniques that helps you to improve your problem solving. One recommended technique is Turbo Sigma. I’ve seen how this simple structured process for mimicking our natural learning processes significantly catapult IT Professionals from average performers to outstanding Professionals.
  • Seek out successful Professionals and their organizations. One may own the means of production, but it is the organization of this means that creates the ultimate value. The organization needs you, but you need the organization. Therefore associate yourself with the best talent there is. In this way you will accelerate your learning and, the results that you produce personally and as part of your group or organization will testify to the value you have on offer.
  • Lastly, seek out opportunities to market yourself. You need to build the brand of who you are as an IT Professional beyond the organization of your employer or client. Your C.V. and online Profile is an integral part of this marketing. Experienced senior IT Professionals often end up contracting their services through more flexible employment relationships because their own Professional brand exceedingly offers intrinsic value to their client or organization through which they engage. They are recognized as distinguished Professionals. Once you are recognized as leader in your field, then you have real opportunity to influence the terms of your engagement.
The Future Organization

As more and more IT Professionals realize the organization's dependence on them, and in turn their dependence on the organization, there is bound to come a time when the terms for engagement between these two parties is redefined and up for considerable change.
I have commented in previous blog entries that the IT company appears to be shrinking rapidly. That IT Professionals are more likely to be in small companies made up of four to ten individual. These micro organizations offers its members more flexible terms for engagement with niche focus. It also shields from some of the risks an individual contractor may face. It empowers the professional beyond the boundaries of the traditional employment relationship.
Another phenomenon confirming that change is imminent is the rapid growth of Open Source communities and virtaul networks. IT Professionals collaborate in virtual organizations online to produce solutions and effect outcomes that competes and in more cases than one win over traditional commercial organizations.
The traditional IT employers that take note of these imminent changes, and those that find ways to flexibly engage and unlock the talent of the independent senior IT professionals, will be the organizations of tomorrow. Those that don’t, will be replaced by innovative other, and sometimes virtual organization structures that can find ways for bringing IT talent together for business benefit and outcomes. These will be the companies for tomorrow, harnessing the means of production through innovative flexible organization and association that benefits all parties.
Seek out those that are successful, and chances are that you will be successful too.
Hendrik van Wyk

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