One of my participants from this organization described how the technical ladder is climbed. You have to have the credentials (i.e., one or more advanced degrees in science or engineering), the experience, and cumulative contributions to justify being granted a higher position. But in addition to the individual's own qualifications, the business has to acknowledge that there is a business need for an individual to be named to the higher position, because, as my participant says, "we expect that our higher technical community to have a significant contribution."
What this actually means is that the organization won't pay an individual what s/he might otherwise be worth in terms of their actual contribution, if it has not previously "justified" needing that contribution.
I'm sure that many people - particularly those doing manual or assembly-line type labour - can enact what Frederick Winslow Taylor called soldiering - essentially marking time so as not to contribute more to the enterprise than what they were being paid for. But for knowledge workers, and especially those in a technical track in a high-tech environment, it is pretty much impossible to "soldier." How does a thinker restrict the number or creativity of their thoughts, ideas and insights? "Gee, I would have invented a new algorithm today, but I'm only at a level 12, and I've used up my quota of ideas for the month. Now, if I was a 15, then we'd be cooking!"
Doesn't work like that.
What is happening is pure BAH: the company treating its knowledge workers as if they were factory labour. The organization is clearly gaining the advantage here in applying an Industrial Age model to solve what it perceives is an Industrial Age problem - the indeterminacy of labour. But as I write about in Creating a Culture of Innovation, the contemporary issue is not indeterminacy of labour, but indeterminacy of knowledge:
Rather than trying to measure and control the amount ofAn executive from this organization might argue that there is a practical limitation to how much the business can justify to pay in aggregate salaries, irrespective of the beneficial contributions of stellar performers. I don't disagree. But this situation strikes me as a tell-tale indicator of BAH-ness, tightly coupling status, a priori-justified contribution, and pay. Organizations that strike me as being relatively more UCaPP also tend to decouple this previously paradigmatic trinity.
production labour that is going to benefit the organization, managers are now trying to measure and control the amount of knowledge work – thinking, creating, and innovating – that is occurring to benefit the organization. In the general industrial case, one could argue that the productivity of the entire organization is effectively limited by the slowest worker. In the case of indeterminacy of knowledge, the problem is reversed. For the knowledge worker, the lower limit of corporate knowledge “production” is that of the best worker, since that person’s knowledge can be electronically disseminated to all and become the norm, enabling new innovations and insights that can build upon, and exceed, that base level.
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