There is a huge blind spot when it comes to the management of the time of knowledge workers. Basically, their time is not managed. 

I recently had a conversation with a New Zealand journalist, who told me that New Zealand companies were worried about productivity. Organizations are facing major problems today when it comes to the productivity of their knowledge workers.

A knowledge worker is someone who makes decisions. They don’t just do what they’re told. They figure out the right thing to do. As a result, knowledge workers spend a lot of time searching and researching. You would think therefore that organizations would be very focused on providing high quality search for their knowledge workers.

Are you delusional? Enterprise search is beyond appalling. It’s a productivity black hole. And management just doesn’t care. Why doesn’t management care? Because management doesn’t care about knowledge worker's time. The knowledge worker day is elastic as far as management is concerned. What’s the typical management answer to email overload? Work late. Work from home. Work at weekends. There’s always a bit more time to squeeze out of a knowledge worker.

Excelling at management today is about firing people and automating as much as possible. Because the management mantra is: "Employees are the problem. Technology is the answer." The typical manager is only interested in "hard" costs. If we do X, how many people can I fire? The productivity of the existing workforce is a "soft" cost. Managers sneer at soft costs. They’re not real and macho like hard costs.

Making your sales reps more efficient is kind of like world peace. A noble idea but not what a serious manager focuses on. I had a conversation with such a manager about a year ago. He had implemented a new customer relationship management system and one of the modules was for sales lead management. The old system had a three step process. The new system was a 13 step process. He didn’t get the argument that this new system would eat up far more of the sales reps’ time.

This type of manager is not unique. I have been meeting them since the mid-90's. “Stability, security, scalability. For years, these were the primary criteria companies used in selecting enterprise software,” Ann All, editor of Enterprise Apps Today, states in September 2014. “Usability, if considered at all, was given short shrift.”

And the result? Enterprises that are chock full of technology monstrosities, where productivity drains away every day because of time lost using unusable software. And absolutely nobody in management cares.

There is a massive opportunity to improve knowledge worker productivity but there must first be a change in management culture. Just like we have a customer-centric revolution sweeping the world, we now need an employee-centric revolution. We must put the employee at the center of strategy. We must measure success based on outcomes. How many sales reps enter leads? How long does it take them? Focus relentlessly on saving employee time because that is the match that will ignite the knowledge worker productivity revolution.