Thursday 10 December 2015

How to conduct a Knowledge Gap Analysis

A knowledge gap analysis is the product equivalent of the Knowledge Management Plan used by process-based organisations.  It can be used to map out the unknown areas related to a product already under development, or soon to be developed.

What a whiteboard  in a gap analysis session may look like
I blogged on Monday about the Bombardier KM Framework, and one of their process elements is the Knowledge Gap Analysis. It struck me I had never blogged about this particular tool.

A Knowledge gap analysis session runs like this:

Hold a workshop involving the design team, the chief engineer(s) and representatives from marketing, sales and support.

Put a schematic of the product up on the whiteboard. Break it down into its main  subcomponents or modules (you could do this as a schematic, or as a concept map).

Also write up the known operating requirements or functional requirements, and the known market forces (competitors, component suppliers etc).

Ask the participants to brainstorm on a series of post it notes, remaining open questions about the whole product, the modules, subcomponents, market and/or requirements. As them to express these as questions, and as sentences, and stick them on the whiteboard next to the part of the product they refer to.

Challenge the team to think deeply - maybe there are some knowledge gaps we have not thought of before - the previously unknown unknowns. 

Once you have plenty of post-it notes, you assign individuals or groups to work on question areas. A couple of people might work on the questions on the impeller pump, someone on bearings, someone on the competitive landscape and so on.

Give them 30 minutes to decide the best way(s) to answer the questions on the relevant post-it notes. 

Then reconvene the whole group, and develop an action list to close the knowledge gaps. Ask for additional suggestions for actions, that the individuals or groups may have overlooked. Prioritise the actions, and assign them to individuals.

Finally discuss with the team how and when they will capture their own knowledge as the project progresses, and who has what accountability for KM within the project.

You should be able to complete this workshop in 4 hours to a day, depending on the product complexity. 

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