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Title WHOLE
Work process knowledge in technological and organisational development (Thematic Network)
Aspect
Concept Trends Findings Practice Challenge
Synopsis Major findings of the project are summarised in the following conclusions:

(a) Studies of the new work situations in many of these sectors confirm the need for work process knowledge in order to deal with the impact of new technology on work organisation, and to achieve the flexibility needed to achieve continuous improvement and responsiveness to changing market conditions.

(b) Work process knowledge is constructed in the workplace at the time of use. It may be generated by resolving contradictions between explicit work-related knowledge (such as official procedures or scientific explanations of technical processes) and the worker's direct experience of working conditions, such as customer relations or the idiosyncratic functioning of equipment. 

(c) Much work process knowledge in organisations is tacit, because it is embodied in personal experience and social networks. However, it is not elusive: it can be identified, analysed and expressed in ways that can serve as cognitive tools for performing work and generating further knowledge in the workplace.

(d) Much work process knowledge is held collectively, and can best be viewed as one aspect of the culture of the workplace. Thus in an important sense, it is owned by the workforce.

(e) When organisations become more flexible and/or introduce new technology in response to competitive pressures, many stress factors are created which make it difficult to generate and exchange work-related knowledge in the workplace - these include loss of professional identity, insecurity and the pressures of work intensification.

(f) While the development of work process knowledge can be viewed as a major resource for improving economic competitiveness through modernisation, there are limits to its contribution. Many manufacturing firms are finding a competitive advantage in Taylorism and Fordism, and are adapting to more competitive markets without fundamentally altering the nature of the labour process. And even in 'learning organisations', the contribution of work process knowledge can be limited, as many knowledge-creating companies place limits on the scope of knowledge creation and sharing in the workplace (Boreham et al. 2000a, pp. 3, 4).

Reference Findings of the project are set out in detail in the final report (Boreham et al. 2000a, pp. 21-65). 
See also project info on WHOLE.
Descriptors D-KM  EP10          E12a
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Editor: Sabine Manning  © WIFO