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Corporate Intranets and Knowledge Management: A Quest for Efficiency or Taylorism Revisited?

International Journal of Applied Knowledge Management (ISSN: 1746-8167) Volume 1 Issue 1 - Download PDF

Dr. Kristen Bell DeTienne

Department of Organizational Leadership and Strategy
Marriott School of Management, Brigham Young University

Abstract

During America’s industrial age, Frederick W. Taylor, the father of scientific management, sought to maximize his factories ’ efficiency by maximizing the efficiency of his workers. Taylor ’s critics argue d that his desire to maximize his worker s’ efficiency encouraged him to view his workers as inhuman objects. Today, intranets are becoming increasingly important to companies as they search for more efficient ways to share information . An important correlation can be drawn between how we seek to efficiently produce information and how Taylor sought to efficiently produce products. As intranets improve the efficiency of employees , will they also encourage managers to view their employees as inhuman objects ? This paper seeks to explore this possibility by examining intranets — what they are, their benefits and drawbacks. This paper concludes that when employing intranets, managers must be careful that the intranets have both the company’s and employees ’ best interest in mind.

Susan Cuthill, director of International Human Resources Consulting Services for Arthur Andersen in Chicago was faced with a dilemma. Near closing time, A she received an urgent request from a client . was received close to closing time. As s he pondered her options of how to handle this request, she wondered if this W would thi s mean another late night at t he office to keep her client happy . ? Rather than lose a good night ’s sleep, which was the only viable option in the past, Cuthill e-mailed colleagues in the U.K. office asking them to work on the assignment first thing in their morning and to send the information back to her. When she woke up the next morning, S she , with the help of the U.K. office, had an answer for her client . first thing in the morning. "When I walked in, [ the U.K. office ’s their response] was in my e-mail. I had the fax on the client's desk by 9:00 a.m. Amazing," Cuthill said. . (Solomon 1998) With new technologies, whole staffs of businesses can literally work for their clients 24 hours a day without having to work overtime during normal business hours , if they are somewhere in the world connected by a global corporate intranet.

It seems that E everyone is talking about corporate intranets and how they contribute to companies being more efficient and how intranets facilitate the spreading knowledge throughout companies. (Gottschalk & Khandelwal 2004) , B but what exactly is an intranet , and what are their implications? This article will explore the following questions: How are intranets affecting employees? Is this new form of intra- company communication simply digitizing workers? Is the electronic medium contribut­ing to a new form of dehumanizing Taylorism? The process of helping workers to perform in the most efficient manner possible is the underlying reasoning behind Taylorism and intranets; both can have dehumanizing effects on workers if not properly managed.

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