In the second issue of Smart People magazine is an article on the key shift from command-and-control to knowledge work, Unmanaging knowledge - How to tell the boss to back off by Charles Ehin.
You’ve got a pretty good boss, yet he or she still heeds the traditional creed of command and control. But it doesn’t work for you. You’re engaged in knowledge work and you’d like to tell the boss to back off. What do you do? Explain it to the boss first chance you get. Here’s a good way to do it.
In knowledge management circles, this is a familiar discussion point - that knowledge work is very different from labor-intensive work. And since it is different, there should be different management approaches. The claim is that our business world is heavily geared toward command-and-control mechanisms of the industrial age.
The article focuses on Professor Ehin's research around intellectual capital and the power of informal networks. He also discusses the idea of tacit knowledge and makes the comment that "People are seldom aware of exactly what unrelated knowledge they possess until confronted with a problem or an opportunity." (Similar to Dave Snowden's rules about knowledge sharing.) This also implies that it is going to be nearly impossible to manage knowledge workers in the traditional sense. Knowledge workers need the freedom to ask questions and respond to queries from many different sources.
That said, most people also need general guidelines and direction. And Ehin suggests that there is a "sweet spot" in organizations where the balance of formal and informal systems works in harmony. Interesting.