Modern business relies on the creation and processing of knowledge. Peter Drucker and others recognized the role of the knowledge worker as being a central challenge of the second half of the 20th century. Enabling, enhancing and extending the reach and power of knowledge and knowledge workers has been the foundation of the information technology revolution. While more of us work with knowledge than make knowledge, the role of knowledge worker represents an evolution of the nature of work from physical labor, inputs and outputs to information handling, assessment and decisions.
As knowledge work comes to dominate the workforce across industry, a new type of work is emerging and therefore a new type of worker – judgment work.
A judgment worker is someone who creates value through making decisions based on their experience, contextual awareness and subject matter expertise.
The key elements that differentiate judgment workers from knowledge workers include:
- Judgment workers make unstructured decisions and take advantage of different sets of information at different times. Knowledge workers make structured decisions using the structured information consistently.
- The goal of judgment work is to reach the best decision/direction possible. There are no right answers, only some better than others. Knowledge workers seek the right decision, which is often possible, as knowledge work has been incorporated into processes and procedures.
- The value of judgment work centers on handling unpredictable situations that are not accounted for in enterprise strategy, policy and processes. The value of knowledge work is to handle planned situations that require the participation and involvement of people to create results.
Judgment work occurs in your mid-office processes, which are the activities that shape how you go to market in the front office and deliver your business in the back office.
Judgment work has been off our radar screen as its apparent value declines when corporate strategies call for a single minded, heads down focus. Judgment work matters less in the extremes where boom times and high demand cover over poor decisions and in times of extreme recession where one answer – generate cash.
A full appreciation of judgment work arises when we live in between the extremes. When there is uncertainty, volatility, multiple forces, many opinions that require judgment and making a ‘tried and true’ decision creates commodity results. This is where experience, insight and information count and can create competitive advantage for your organization.
CIOs and IT leaders face the need to support judgment work and to exercise their own judgment as the fundamentals of IT are changing. That is what we mean by re-imagining IT, the need to make the judgments that will redefine and reposition IT in the future. Without judgment, the CIO is left to define IT the same as everyone else. In an environment of standardizing services (cloud) and choice that can put IT on the path to strategic irrelevance.
Judgment work is not new, but its role is becoming more apparent in an increasing structured and process-intensive world. As information becomes broadly available, CIOs and IT leaders will need to provide new forms of information and technology as current business intelligence solutions support knowledge work rather than judgment work. Without the business in business intelligence, BI is dead. Increasingly that business involves judgment work that is different form knowledge work.
How do you support judgment work?
With what technologies?
Is there really no such thing as judgment work in your organization?
Are all decisions, options and information clear so it’s more about executing via intelligence?