Summary of Breaking Logjams in Knowledge Work

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Overloading your knowledge workers isn’t the path to organizational success, say the authors of this MIT Sloan Management Review article. Prevent the inefficiencies and chaos of chronically piled-up work and strained staffers by embracing “pull thinking,” a production model adopted from manufacturing.

About the Authors

Sheila Dodge manages Broad Genomics and is a Broad Institute scientist. Don Kieffer lectures at the MIT Sloan School of Management, where Nelson P. Repenning is a professor.



Clumsy job design and ingrained dysfunction can lead to organizational “logjams”: chronically piled-up work that tech solutions can’t dispel. Mistakenly, many executives expect their people to prosper when overloaded. Leaders may keep pushing employees for more, spotlighting those who can deliver. The theory that success hinges on always-busy workers dominated US manufacturing until the 1980s, when many factory managers adopted a smarter approach. But in knowledge work, this theory of success still lives.

Incorporate “pull thinking” into your system to regulate pacing and coordinate how many tasks factor into a process. After successfully implementing ...

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