Tuesday, 3 March 2020

10 principles for KM in product development

KM in product development has its own set of principles. Here they are.


The Exploratory Product Development Resolution Loop
by Petepetey via Wikimedia Commons
Kennedy, Harmon and Minnock's excellent book "Ready, Set , Dominate" takes a knowledge-centred view of product development, inspired by practices of Toyota Motor Company and refined through application to a wide variety of industries across the globe. Here are the ten principles that they list in the conclusion to the book (my explanation and commentary in italics).

1. Knowledge is both the raw material and the output of product development. This leads to the view of a knowledge workstream in parallel with the product workstream.  
2. Set-Based Knowledge is infinitely more valuable than Point-Based Knowledge (this means that generically applicable knowledge, for example "these combinations work in these circumstances" and often stored as trade-off curves, is more valuable than specific knowledge such as "this combination worked in this circumstance")  
3. Knowledge must be visible to be used and managed (which means it must be discussed, and must be a conscious issue and asset) 
4. The product development organization must be skilled at creating, capturing and using the knowledge (which means that you need a knowledge management framework for product development) 
5. The knowledge needed to be successful is a deep understanding of the interests of all the customers in the operational value stream, how decisions made in design affect them and how those design decisions interact with each other (this is some of the critical knowledge. Other core knowledge is "how to develop products effectively and efficiently" and "how does our technology work in practice").  
6. The knowledge needed to be successful needs to be available before the decision, not afterwards (which implies knowledge available at the point of need, knowledge for decision support, and that people will seek the knowledge in order to support the decision) 
7. The decisions should be delayed as long as possible to allow the maximum learning within time and budget (this is a principle specific to lean product development, and represents the principle that the early stages of product development should not be about fixing the design but about gathering knowledge to ensure the right design is fixed) 
8. Mechanisms must exist within the product development process to pull the reuse of existing knowledge and the creation of additional knowledge before the decision deadline (ie mechanisms to ensure knowledge is sought and used) 
9. That knowledge should enable and be systematically used to eliminate the weakest alternatives from the set of all feasible solutions allowing designs to converge to the optimum (Toyota run several prototype designs in parallel, eliminating the ones that dont work and combining the characteristics of those that do. This is iterative and parallel development). 
10. The organization must manage the process of creating, capturing and using the product development knowledge with the same diligence given to other corporate assets" (Yes, yes, and a thousand times yes. Knowledge is the core asset for product development. As the quote from Toyota goes - "we dont make cars, we make knowledge, and from that knowledge great cars emerge".  Knowledge is the asset that enables you to make great products. MANAGE THAT ASSET IF YOU WANT TO SURVIVE!!).
With the possible exception of numbers 5 and 9, which refer specifically to a design/manufacture context, these principles should be applicable in many other Knowledge Management initiatives (see for example the US Army KM principles).

However see the words of warning below from the authors.

"What is difficult is that some of the principles are opposite to today's practices and even seem counter-intuitive. Further, some roles in organizations may need to be created or modified for better knowledge management. And, as with any initiative, there is the need to lead the organizational change. As these principles and capabilities begin to fall in place, engineering productivity and schedule attainment increases rapidly".

If you are a KMer in a product organisation, apply these principles, especially number 10.

1 comment:

Marshall Kirkpatrick said...

Nick, this is a super helpful summary of this book. Delicious! Found via Samuel Driessen on Twitter and sharing with my product manager, Danish Aziz. Thanks!

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