Are traditional reengineering approaches appropriate for improving knowledge work processes? In a study of thirty organizations, the authors found that improvement methods for knowledge work ranged from the classical top-down approach to a more laissez-faire philosophy that allowed professionals to design and execute their own work. Companies should probably choose an intermediate approach that reflects the type of knowledge work, the organizational culture, and the project’s business requirements. They must recognize that the nature of knowledge work is different from administrative and operational work and that the people who perform it resist structured approaches.
This research project was supported by the Ernst & Young Center for Business Innovation and by the sponsors of the “Mastering the Information Environment” research program. We are grateful for their financial assistance and for their willingness to serve as research sites.