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  • Writer's pictureLorenzo Colombani

Less Freedom is More Money

Sitting at his desk, Jarnathan felt he accomplished nothing today. “Where has my day gone?"


Jarnathan was a good employee who did not slack. He worked in the luxury industry. He ranked up from salesperson to Key Account Manager.


He now managed regional accounts for duty-free products in Northern America. He coordinates many teams and clients.


His company uses Microsoft Suite (Outlook, Teams, Excel, Sharepoint, etc.). Many clients do not. Last week, Jarnathan spent three hours figuring out how to send a 10GB file to a client who had strict IT and cybersecurity policies (no Dropbox, no Google Drive, WeeTransfer, no nothing). He compromised and divided the file in 27 smaller files that fit within an email. Not a great workflow.


Jarnathan lost a lot of time that day.


Time is money, and that day, a lot of money was thrown out of the window.

White-Collars: Clip Your Wings or Die.


 

If you relate to Jarnathan, then you must deny Peter Drucker.


Peter Drucker's Wikipedia page describes him as "the founder of modern management".


“The knowledge worker cannot be supervised closely or in detail,” Drucker wrote in his 1967 book, The Effective Executive. “He must direct himself.”

Newport, Cal. A World Without Email: Reimagining Work in an Age of Communication Overload (p. 89). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.


Drucker preached this idea of knowledge worker autonomy throughout his long career. As late as 1999, he still emphasized its importance:
"[Knowledge work] demands that we impose the responsibility for their productivity on the individual knowledge workers themselves. Knowledge workers have to manage themselves. They have to have autonomy."

Ibidem (p. 90).


That is no longer true.


Many industries abandoned that philosophy in favor of better workflows. IT and Customer Support use ticketing systems (ask ChatGPT if you do not know what that is). Lean and Scrum managements are specifically built to identify and eliminate inefficient work processes (and stay flexible). The goal is to make for a smooth and frictionless workflow.


The knowledge worker of tomorrow will either embrace the discipline of the assembly line or become obsolete. Luckily, as AI progresses (LLMs and, apparently, GAIs), the knowledge workers might soon start saving a lot of time.


Let's summarize the metaphor:

  • Knowledge worker = assembly line worker.

  • AIs and processes = assembly line.

Notice someone missing? Yep, where is the foreman? (Or "manager"). What skills will (s)he need? What will his/her job look like?


That's the question you should be asking yourself.


Or me, but I don't work for free (yet).

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