The Management of Knowledge Work

Author Name Wouter DESSEIN (Columbia University) / Desmond (Ho-Fu) LO (Santa Clara University) / SHANGGUAN Ruo (Jinan University) / OWAN Hideo (Faculty Fellow, RIETI)
Creation Date/NO. April 2024 24-E-044
Research Project Productivity Effects of HRM Policies and Management Quality
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We explore the role of management in knowledge-intensive work. Our theory posits that the manager’s function in a project mainly consists of ex ante coordination, specifying and delegating tasks to the project team, and ex post coordination of the team’s execution of those tasks as the project unfolds. Consistent with the predictions generated from this view, our micro-level data from architectural design teams show a clear pattern of coordinated time use: (i) the involvement of both the manager and the project team is significantly higher ex ante than ex post; notably, this time pattern is more potent for more knowledge-intensive projects and projects subject to more information frictions, and (ii) the timing of the peak hours of the manager precedes those of the team. We also find that the team takes up the slack when the manager reduces ex-ante hours because of a heavier workload. Finally, projects in which managerial attention deviates from our predicted involvement correlate with higher team hours and lower overall profitability. Our study highlights the importance of managerial coordination and rational inattention in organizing knowledge workers.