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Masters Thesis Product Development, Chalmers University 2009:


A report written in the end of a project to capture knowledge generated in the project. Also called project report or Lessons Learned.

Building on Knowledge

The companies primarily use two tools for the transfer and reuse of knowledge: The white book and the database. None of them works satisfactory. Why?
An IT-tool that stores for example technical and process information.

An analysis of knowledge transfer in product development


Knowledge is the base for all product development, understanding the use of the product and the technologies supporting it is a must to be able to deliver successful products. A big part of this knowledge is generated in the vast number of development projects a company undertakes. Generally, companies know their products and the key parameters for success well. But what about transferring generated knowledge to subsequent projects in order to continuously improve? Is there a strive to always learn from what is done in the company? This thesis aims to explore how knowledge can be transferred in a project environment to minimize the risk of doing the same mistakes over and over again, or reinventing the wheel in every new project. The project is a part of a research project at Swerea IVF with the aim to explore the advantages of Lean product development, and how it could be implemented in Swedish industry. A number of companies have through interviews and visits contributed to the understanding of how companies work with these issues and what the perceived barriers for knowledge transfer are.

- Is done at the end of the project: - a big part of the project team is exchanged - when working for several years it is hard to remember everything - it is difficult to have an objective mind afterwards - the next project is often already started - it does not contribute to the current project - There is no convincing need of the written report, which is unmotivating - It is perceived as a time consuming extra task


- It is hard to get the knowledge available. It must be fast and the information acquired should be relevant and in the right amount. - Is the information up-to-date and reliable? - Vicious circle: If no or little effort is put on the information going into the database, it might lead to a non-satisfactory output, which further lessens the effort of putting relevant and good back into the database. (Also applies to the white book)

PROJECT FOCUS (A focus on here and now, to deliver according to time, cost and quality) EMPLOYEE TURNOVER (The fact that people leave the organisation and leaves gaps of knowledge) PROBLEM SOLVING (To not understand the root cause of the problem makes it reappear again and again) TRANSFERABILITY (Products and projects might be more similar than what is generally believed)

The potential barriers for knowledge transfer identified in the study can be divided into two groups: formal and informal barriers

CULTURE (Example: A feeling that learning is someone elses job and that it is isolated from other tasks. It might be used as a tool of power, it might also be perceived as soft from an engineers point of view) RESPONSIBILITY (Engineers lack the feeling of being part of the whole process and the responsibility for the product all the way to the end user) MANAGEMENT SUPPORT (Managers do not encourage learning/knowledge initiatives and does not set a good example for others to follow)

Key concepts Explicit knowledge: knowledge that can be documented, knowing about Tacit knowledge: knowledge embedded in peoples experiences and skills, knowing how



Toyota separates the knowledge value stream from the product value stream as can be seen in the arrow to the right. Products are developed based on existing technology developed in the knowledge value stream. This provides continuity in the development of knowledge, since it is a constant process, managed by the functional managers and not bounded by project deadlines. - Knowledge is developed through standardization and clear responsibilities - Knowledge is spread through visualization and a learning mentality - Lean product development is largely behavioral, but the tools are very important

Technology roadmap

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overcome the iers. Structure and organisation that tified a need to manage both of the barr barriers. The tools and methods iden with knowledge transfer there is To succeed rcome the informal managers and co-workers that ove to believe that there s us formal barriers, and openness from part of the first category which lead ies perceive as problematic, are both in the thesis and that the compan is not enough focus on the second.


Development project


Learning is not compulsory. Neither is survival. - William Edwards Deming


The conclusions formulated as six bullet points are directly connected to the barriers described above. 1. Move the focus from specific product development projects to a continuous development of customer value, for example functionality or performance. The project leaders strive to balance time, cost and quality within projects implies that the long perspective is neglected. 2. Make the coworkers fully responsible for their work. Command and control leads to low motivation for learning. 3. Identify and engage knowledge owners Make sure that there are one or more persons that feel the personal responsibility . for the use and development of knowledge in each of the companys key knowledge areas. 4. Establish a substantial introduction program for new employees. It is important to get new employees to work in a desired way. Additionally, its crucial to understand all the aspects of a product and its production and commercialization, even if you are working only with design. 5. Make learning a corporate goal. To see learning and continuous improvement as a must for the companys success is crucial. It is also important that leaders of the organization are active supporters and drivers of initiatives for learning. 6. Lean product development offers mindsets and tools that address the barriers for knowledge transfer. Lean product development is about developing knowledge through standardization and clear responibilities and spreading it through visualization and a learning mentality.




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Development project

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Ludvig Alfredson and Bjrn Sderberg 2009

A3 reports, Obeya

Chief Engineer Trade-o curves Lessons Learned




Nonaka and Takeuchi have developed a theory based on the transitions between tacit and explicit knowledge. The four transitions illustrated to the left are all crucial to effective knowledge transfer. Placing the LPD-tools (blue ellipses) into Nonakas picture shows that LPD have activities throughout the entire circle. This can be compared to the tools identified as the ones mainly used by the companies in the study (red ellipses), focusing primarily on the transfer of explicit knowledge.

THANKS TO: The companies for time and commitment. Lars Trygg at Chalmers och Stefan Bkk at Swerea IVF for advice and feedback


SOURCE: Nonaka & Takeuchi: The Knowledge creating Company (1995)

Ludvig Alfredson Bjrn Sderberg