Dr. Duru > My Research

My Research in Organizational Learning and Knowledge Management


Last updated: May 29, 2004....

As a part of my on-going research and the conclusion of my Ph.D. program, I presented my research in various forums and forms. I presented a paper at The First Annual Southern California Inter-Disciplinary Graduate Student Conference at USC on April 4, 1998: NEW FRONTIERS IN RESEARCH: COMMUNICATION, TECHNOLOGY, AND SOCIETY . I also made an abbreviated presentation on work-in-progress at the Ford Foundation Fellows conference in October, 1998.

You can read/download my first published and refereed piece in issue #1 of the Journal of Systemic Knowledge Management titled "A Conceptual Framework for Modeling the Conflict Between Product Creation and Knowledge Development Amongst Production Workers." The article can now be found at The Journal of Knowledge Management Practice . It is also listed in the Business Publications Search Engine . You can also email me for a Microsoft Word version if these sites are no longer operational.

I have recently had the honor of being accepted for another journal. The article is titled "Empowerment and Production Workers: A Knowledge-Based Perspective." It appears in Participation and Empowerment, an International Journal Vol. 6, No. 7 (1998). This article received honors as best paper of the year for the journal. You can find the abstract below. If you would like a copy of this paper, please email me (by clicking here) for further assistance (please note that the journal was recently discontinued although many of its themes have been rolled into the publisher's Organizational Development journal). Thank you for interest!

Some folks out there have actually based their own work on mine. As I find them, I will list them here:
* Presentation on EmpowermentMiddle East Technical University (Ankarra, Turkey) -  IE431 ERGONOMICS IN ANALYSIS AND EVALUATION OF JOBS


Empowerment and Production Workers: A Knowledge-Based Perspective

by N. Duru Ahanotu (November, 1998)

Abstract

This paper emphasizes that production workers achieve empowerment through participation in processes of innovation and through a collaborative partnership with the sources of design knowledge in a company (including engineers and managers). An alternative reading of Taylor's principles of scientific management suggests that empowerment ultimately depends upon the distribution and use of knowledge. By including promising theory from the literature and a few examples from industry and field study, the author concludes that to create effective opportunities for empowerment on the factory floor, knowledge development for production workers must move beyond the confines of routine continuous improvement and beyond efficiency-based logic and reach into the realms of innovation that define the very paradigms of production.

Keywords: empowerment, production workers, innovation, knowledge development, manufacturing.


FINALLY. Here is a copy of my dissertation's abstract... It is NOW published and available through UMI.

Title: Modeling Production Workers As Innovators: A Dynamic Simulation and Field Study of Knowledge Development In Manufacturing

Abstract:

The identification of continuous improvement and innovation as separate, but linked, models of progress in manufacturing has led to new understandings of change in manufacturing industries. So far, this theory has not significantly accommodated new roles for production workers nor has it generated new analytical models for understanding knowledge development for production workers in innovative organizations. We establish an integrated, knowledge-based theory of production work to explain how to balance this goal of expanded knowledge development with the conventional, profit-seeking goal of product fabrication. The objective is to develop a model for effectively allocating production work across a portfolio of operations and other knowledge-creating tasks --- a model that improves organizational performance, aligns production with the overall innovative potential of manufacturing, and promotes the empowerment of production workers.

We use organizational theory and empirical investigation to explain the propensity to innovate across a variety of production workers. Four distinct types, or cohorts, of innovators are identified and shown to provide strong predictors of the potential for knowledge development. These cohorts require differentiated task portfolios spanning traditional operations tasks, original experimentation, and collaboration with agents who are the primary sources of design knowledge. This bi-directional actualization of innovation constitutes a knowledge-based perspective on the participation of production workers in organizational processes.

The theoretical framework supports two dynamic, analytic, simulation models of knowledge development in manufacturing. The first model examines a linear trajectory of multiple process changes over one product life-cycle. The second model expands this treatment over multiple product cycles. Both models treat knowledge accumulation as adaptation controlled by the variability in the production process and its complexity. Production costs and the rate of production are in turn directly proportional to the rate of this knowledge accumulation. Existing capabilities and technology constrain the potential for continuous improvement of these metrics. The synchronous and asymptotic growth in capabilities of innovation amongst production workers and the sources of design knowledge stochastically generate periodic implementation of techniques that relax these bounds. Our model contributes to the limited work in this area by integrating a specific knowledge-based role of production workers into a dynamic and stochastic specification of both learning and innovation that is based upon the transferability of knowledge from one process state to the next.

The single-product model predicts that the marginal distribution of resources from operations tasks to non-production tasks can both increase the occurrence of organizational innovation and improve overall organizational performance when careful consideration is given to customizing strategy according to cohorts of production. The model also reveals a breadth of strategic options for implementation of these principles. The multi-product model expands these conclusions to represent the advancement of production workers through the cohorts as the evolution of core competencies in production. We demonstrate how early allocation decisions can retard this evolution and/or degrade performance. In particular, it recommends a slightly higher commitment to production for the most innovative production workers than the single-product model might predict.

We conclude this research with a field study of a large semiconductor firm. This study focuses on the knowledge-based aspects of production work by directly interviewing a large sample of production managers, engineers, and direct labor (production workers). We find recurrent justification of our theoretical and analytical approach and discover that practical implementation of this theory requires a coordinated, knowledge-based effort across the organization with engineers providing a key technical and organizational role. Implications for other types of manufacturers are also discussed.


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