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Knowledge and continuous innovation
The CIMA methodology
Aalborg University, Denmark CENTRIM University of Brighton, UK University of Pisa, Italy Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland Twente University, Enschede, The Netherlands Chalmers University, Goteborg, Sweden È
Mariano Corso Paul Coughlan Jose Gieskes Â
Sara Pavesi and Stefano Ronchi
Politecnico di Milano, Italy
Keywords New product development, Innovation, Kaizen, Learning Abstract Competition today is forcing companies to increase their effectiveness through exploiting synergy and learning in product innovation. Literature, however, is still mainly focused on how product development projects, seen largely as isolated efforts, should be organised and managed. This article proposes a model to describe and explain how companies can gain a substantive competitive advantage by extending their innovation efforts to other phases of the product life cycle and by facilitating knowledge transfer and learning both within the company and with other partner organisations. The model is based on collaborative research by the authors, based on their involvement in the Euro-Australian co-operation project CIMA (Euro-Australian co-operation centre for Continuous Improvement and innovation MAnagement).
Introduction To survive in a demanding and turbulent competitive environment companies are investing a growing amount of resources and managerial attention in product innovation. With pressures to reduce product development intervals and to increase the frequency of new product introductions, this attention is more and more continuous and the efforts involve partners outside the
Many people contributed to this article through their involvement in the CIMA-project, by triggering and challenging the authors' thinking in previous discussions, or in the form of useful comments on draft versions of the article. All these contributions are gratefully acknowledged and in particular those from Roberto Verganti and Emilio Bartezzaghi (Politecnico di Milano); Niklas Sundgren (CORE-Chalmers University, Goteborg), Ross È Chapman and Paul Hyland (University of Western Sydney at Macarthur).
International Journal of Operations & Production Management, Vol. 21 No. 4, 2001, pp. 490-503. # MCB University Press, 0144-3577
The research reported here started as part of the Euro-Australian cooperation project CIMA (Euro-Australian co-operation centre for Continuous Improvement and innovation Management ESPRIT 26056). The paper will conclude with the main managerial implications arising from the work so far. the literature remains focused on the management and organisation of new product development (NPD) projects as isolated efforts. An alternative perspective developed by Bartezzaghi et al. often on a global basis. maintenance and service. Subsequently. as well as suggestions for further development.organisational boundaries. with sites in Europe and Australia. This article proposes a methodology. based on a behavioural model. involving consortium of five European and three Australian research centres. for instance. though not integral parts of the development phase. Evidence from best practice companies. introducing the concept of continuous product innovation and focusing on how knowledge can be generated and transferred within the process of CPI. three cases will be reported to show how the methodology was used in companies to prompt managerial actions to improve continuous improvement and learning in their product innovation activities. Then. product innovation is a continuous and cross-functional process involving and integrating a broad range of different competencies inside and outside the organisational boundaries. From this perspective then. with few exceptions. (1997a. In the next section. b) proposes NPD projects as discrete steps within a more comprehensive process of continuous product innovation (CPI). and reporting on its first applications in companies in Italy. The objective of CIMA was to facilitate co-operation and knowledge/technology transfer between European and Australian organisations. Yet. the research setting will be defined. Knowledge and continuous innovation 491 . Meyer and Utterback (1993) and Sundgren (1998). but can become a powerful competitive weapon. and in particular the underlying behavioural model which explains how management can foster continuous improvement and learning in CPI. to help companies facilitate knowledge transfer and foster learning in the process of CPI. aimed at developing a methodology to support companies in managing learning and continuous improvement in product innovation. As well as focusing on products in a family context. Mastering the sharing and transfer of knowledge within this process requires new managerial skills. Sweden and The Netherlands. This article describes some of the results of the CIMA trial project. through: (1) The establishment of a Co-operation Centre. CPI includes all the phases of the product life cycle that follow the launch in the market place. can still provide valuable feedback and additional opportunities to innovate future related products. (2) The development of a first Euro-Australian ``trial'' project. focusing in particular on the development of the methodology of learning in product innovation (PI). shows how manufacturing. the CIMA methodology will be introduced. which were to promote and support bilateral activities between the two continents involving mutual learning and technology and knowledge transfer. for example.
consider PI as occurring only within the boundaries of the product development process. Smith and Reinertsen. CPI embraces not only NPD (concept. deliberately release products that are not fully optimised.g. however. proposing that a focus on single projects is not enough to stay competitive. 1992). platform package releases are followed frequently by a rapid. concurrent engineering was thought to represent a long lasting paradigm for product innovation management. Sundgren. but also as valuable opportunities for PI within a product life cycle. and organisational characteristics beneficial (or detrimental) to different stages of the innovation process. 1991). Saren. 1988. As a consequence. Feedbacks and opportunities coming in from the later field phases are stored not only for feeding next generation product development projects. a new stream of studies emerged which enlarged this perspective. with publications focusing. Rather. 1984). however. Downstream phases in the product life cycle are still important for innovation but only as long as they represent valuable sources of information or constraints that should be anticipated and considered during development (Clark and Fujimoto. almost continuous. In their view. 1997a. which have major bugs fixed and features optimised. (1997b) (see Figure 1). However. consumption and maintenance) are not only sources of information. emerged as order winners or even qualifiers in many markets (e. This is a direct consequence of rapid product development and time to market reduction where companies. 1998). Integration among different phases of a project. 1995) and to the process of learning and knowledge transfer and reuse (Imai et al. Bartezzagi et al.4 492 Knowledge management in PI A model of CPI Since the early 1970s. De Maio et al. 1992. These streams of literature. Cusumano and Nobeoka. a plethora of process models of product innovation was proposed which. managerial and scientific interest in (product) innovation has increased rapidly. In response. believing that the successful management of innovation also depends on a thorough understanding of what is really happening during innovation processes. mostly focussed on the management of the NPD process (see e. success depends even more on exploiting synergy among projects. The concept and the boundaries of PI are therefore changing dramatically. Sanderson and Uzumeri. For example. product and . evidence is emerging that other phases in the product life cycle (such as for instance manufacturing. especially in rapidly shifting environments. 1991). They may actually present additional opportunities to innovate products. on aspects such as factors of success and failure. attention progressively shifted from single projects to families of projects (Meyer and Utterback.. During the 1980s. various researchers started to call for more process-oriented research. heavy-weight project management and project team autonomy were considered as synonymous with best practices. first. quality and speed.. stream of enhanced releases. Correspondingly.. Wheelwright and Clark.IJOPM 21. in addition to price. initially. in the software industry. 1989. the diffusion of innovations. These two dimensions are combined in the model of CPI proposed by Bartezzaghi et al.g. for example by fostering commonality and reusing design solutions over time (Wheelwright and Sasser. innovation roles. By the mid 1990s. 1994. 1993. Towards the end of the 1980s.
In the CPI model. Knowledge transfer in CPI The emerging literature on knowledge management includes five dimensions that should be taken into account when analysing knowledge transfer in CPI: (1) The setting of knowledge transfer.Knowledge and continuous innovation 493 Figure 1. a product that has been already released to market. Main directions for knowledge transfer in the CPI process process design. at the level of the product family. knowledge transfer. The first dimension concerns the setting (routes. or a transfer of solutions between products. We will discuss each dimension in turn. transferring. customisation in sales and installation. (5) The degree of articulation or embodiment. nine main directions or routes of improvement and . consolidating and applying knowledge in order to design appropriate enablers to foster and sustain it. innovation may concern a product that is in its development phase. (4) The degree of abstraction and generalisation. directions) of knowledge transfer. and product launch). we will focus on the last of these concerns. (3) The scope of knowledge. and enhancements and upgrading during product use). the CPI process includes all the interactions among products in the family. Consequently. In the next section. they suggest a move from the traditional perspective of single products to that of product families. (2) Level of dissemination. Second. but also subsequent phases in product life cycle (improvement in manufacturing. Hence. These five dimensions can help in interpreting the process of acquiring.
the first three routes concern knowledge transfer within the same product life cycle. The second dimension of knowledge is its level of dissemination. In brief: (1) Intra-product transfer in development: knowledge is transferred from one phase of the development project to another. See Corso (forthcoming) for further details on the nine routes. (3) Intra-product transfer in field: knowledge is transferred between different in-field activities. usually subsequent.4 494 learning are distinguished (arrows 1 to 9 in Figure 1). project.g. and on the type of knowledge involved. Each knowledge transfer route can be fostered by particular enablers whose successful implementation strongly depends on the actors involved. the way they influence the process. to architectural knowledge. This scope can range from component knowledge. Depending on the specific culture of the organisation. to the organisation as a whole or even the inter-organisational system. 1990). All these routes present a potential for learning and innovation which. from maintenance to production (improvement). is the scope of knowledge. (4) Intra-phase transfer in development: knowledge is transferred from the development phase of one PI project to that of another. emphasis can be placed on sharing knowledge and fostering learning at different levels: from individuals. which refers to how components and skills are integrated and linked together into a coherent whole (Henderson and Clark. (2) Intra-product transfer from development to field: knowledge is transferred from the development project to the operations of the organisation. (6) Intra-phase transfer in field: transfer of knowledge on the same kind of in-field activities related to different products. however. The remaining six routes concern transfer between different products in the same family. e.g. (9) Inter-product transfer from development to field: transfer of knowledge generated during the development of new products to improve products already launched. (5) Inter-phase transfer in development: knowledge is transferred from one phase of a PI project to another phase of another. early experience with one product to the development phase of the next product. (7) Inter-phase transfer in field: knowledge on different in-field phases is exchanged between products/projects. which refers to the mastering of specialist skills and technologies and their embodiment into components. can be exploited only by actively designing.IJOPM 21. The third dimension. implementing and managing adequate mechanisms to enable this transfer of knowledge. . e. (8) Inter-product transfer from field to development: knowledge acquired from field activities is transferred to the development of new products. to groups. Categorically.
identifying strengths and weaknesses and then suggesting enabling mechanisms which can be implemented by the company to stimulate continuous improvement and learning. The methodology comprises four closely related elements: (1) The CIMA process. In order to facilitate knowledge transfer and to prevent its drain. The fifth and final dimension is the degree of articulation or embodiment. single-company or multi-company workshops (with either a paper-based or electronic questionnaire). In the next section. 1987). 1994. Itami. the CIMA methodology to support the management and improvement of learning in CPI will be introduced. therefore. 1982). tacit knowledge is more effective but difficult to imitate (Collis and Montgomery. Companies. organisations can embody knowledge in vehicles such as design solutions (e. the main conceptual underpinning of the methodology. 1994). need to be able to effectively manage both the processes of embodiment of tacit knowledge into articulated forms as well as internalisation of articulated knowledge into tacit forms (Hedlund. changed (Bohn. The next subsection will focus on the CIMA model as an explanatory model for learning in CPI. if necessary. are fundamental in order to enable knowledge to be questioned and. (3) The self-administered CIMA questionnaire. The questionnaire is available in two formats. components and architectures). and remote setting (also either with paper-based or electronic questionnaire). a behavioural model of learning in CPI. 1991). In contrast. Such embodied knowledge is more easily transferable (Barney. See Coughlan et al. standard methodologies and procedures.A fourth dimension of knowledge concerns the degree of abstraction and generalisation (scope of applicability to different situations) (Arora and Gambardella. (4) The CIMA knowledge base in which all the data are stored. 1994). which is essentially an operationalisation of the CIMA model. The knowledge base provides the basis for intra-firm and inter-firm comparison leading to company-specific suggestions for improvement. 1991. Awareness and explicitation. (2000) for further details. (2) The CIMA model. depending on specific contingencies. or organisational structure and routines (Nelson and Winter. to collect data on user companies. moreover. Nonaka. Knowledge and continuous innovation 495 . 1995). Supporting knowledge management in PI: the CIMA methodology The CIMA methodology is designed to be used by researchers acting as facilitators to help companies in fostering and sustaining the process of learning and knowledge management in CPI. aimed at mapping the current level of learning and knowledge management within product innovation. on paper and on diskette. The process has been applied in three different modes (and several variants): action research.g.
ultimately.IJOPM 21. Performance is the result of improvement activities carried out in the PI process. organisation theory and performance measurement. company-specific guidelines for improving learning and knowledge generation processes can be developed to assist managers in sharing and learning from experiences of improvement practices with a view. behaviours underpinning continuous innovation and learning within PI. The relationships between these variables are illustrated in Figure 2. the model was refined and then applied again in over 80 companies in Europe and Australia using the CIMA process and questionnaire referred to above.4 496 The CIMA behavioural model of learning in CPI The first version of the CIMA model was developed to reflect a wide range of theoretical perspectives on innovation. which allowed for ever-better feedback and suggestions to the user companies. Along the way. The variables distinguished are: . to improving PI performance. This variable was operationalised and measured in terms of: P1 Improvement generation. Elements in the CIMA behavioural model of learning in CPI . levers that can foster these behaviours. The refined CIMA model is presented briefly in the remainder of this section. . From the analysis. . P2 Improvement coherence with corporate goals. The model was then piloted in a couple of exploratory in-depth case studies. company-specific contingencies. NPD. Subsequently. Figure 2. the CIMA knowledge base was gradually filled. Operationalisation of the CIMA model Based on the literature and the first set of case studies. the variables in the model were operationalised as follows. learning. continuous Innovation performance. continuous improvement. See Corso and Pavesi (2000) for further details. . The CIMA behavioural model helps to describe and analyse the learning and knowledge generation processes within PI in terms of a number of interrelated variables. continuous learning/innovation capabilities. .
or established through deliberate decisions. L7 Design tools and methods. L6 Performance measurement. B8 Individuals assimilate and internalise knowledge from external sources. however. If appropriately oriented. These behaviours can be influenced by the implementation and application of levers. B2 Individuals and groups use innovation processes as opportunities to develop knowledge. P5 Improvement consolidation. technical Knowledge and continuous innovation 497 . both within and across organisational boundaries. L8 Computer-based technologies. B7 Individuals embed knowledge into vehicles. L4 Human resource management policies. or mechanisms that managers can use when managing the PI process. both within and across organisational boundaries. B3 Individuals use part of available time/resources to experiment new solutions. storing and transferring knowledge. these levers can have a substantial influence on the attitudes and practices of individuals in creating. The capabilities can be described as integrated stocks of resources that are accumulated over time through learning. L5 Project planning and control. Improvement performance is achieved through a set of eight discrete behaviours enacted by individuals: B1 Individuals and groups use the organisation's strategic goals and objectives to focus and prioritise their improvement and learning activities. These levers may be in evidence even though managers may not be trying consciously to stimulate learning.P3 Improvement diffusion within the same PI process. Eight categories of levers have been identified: L1 Product family strategies. B5 Individuals transfer knowledge between different PI processes. B6 Individuals abstract knowledge from experience and generalise it for application to new processes. L3 Organisational integration mechanisms. P4 Improvement diffusion between different PI processes. These stocks of resources include internalised behaviours. L2 Innovation process definition. B4 Individuals integrate knowledge between all different phases of product innovation.
and confirmed. a PC-diskette version of the questionnaire was used allowing for immediate feedback to the company.4 498 skills. . and product and process complexity. The pilot studies added variables. In this section. For the Italian case. The first version of the model was based entirely on the literature and on the experience of the researchers. removed others. data were gathered during semistructured interviews with the main actors in each company's CPI process. We will outline the observations in each case in turn. and handbooks. three examples of the application of the CIMA model are reported. company X. company Y in Sweden. and company Z in The Netherlands. results from three applications of the CIMA methodology are reported: company X in Italy. libraries. Finally. questionnaire and knowledge base) described in the previous section has been applied in more than 80 companies in order to suggest specific mechanisms that can be implemented to foster behaviours and. achieve higher levels of CPI performance. C4 Capability to transfer and diffuse knowledge between PI processes. organisational routines. databases. Interpreting cases through the CIMA model To date.IJOPM 21. The level of a company's CI capabilities determines the efforts that are needed to stimulate the corresponding behaviours. The subsequent series of more than 80 case studies has improved and enriched the model. and endogenous factors such as company size. the CIMA methodology (including the process. C3 Capability to integrate knowledge within PI process. model. rejected or changed the originally-hypothesised relationships between them. and a recognised excellence in product design allowed company X to survive and grow in an industry dominated by larger competitors with correspondingly greater technical and financial resources. contingencies are factors that influence the choice of levers to foster behaviours. The case summary below will include one of the diagrams used in the methodology. Among the contingent factors distinguished in the model are exogenous variables such as the market situation of the company. C5 Knowledge consolidation capability. In each case. using a common questionnaire. In addition to the operationalised variables. through that. A strong emphasis on the renewal and enlargement of the product range. the model proposes a theory in the form of hypothesised or tested relationships between the variables. In the next section. Company X (Italy) Company X competed in the tractor industry which was characterised by increasing concentration and globalisation. Once a country-based company with strong roots in its local environment. C2 Learning alignment capability. tools. In the model the following classes were distinguished: C1 Knowledge generation capability. and corporate assets such as information systems.
Knowledge and continuous innovation 499 Figure 3. A joint diagnosis with the company's managers outlined how weaknesses in this behaviour were responsible for rework. Through L1. with a broad portfolio of famous tractor marks. Company X synoptic diagram . This finding is illustrated in Figure 3. Furthermore. alternative interventions were discussed and finally an integrated plan of actions on four different levers was decided. Drawing examples of management practices in similar cases from the CIMA knowledge base. design changes during the production phase and other critical effects that were hardly considered by the R&D department. correspondingly. a product platform strategy was introduced. organisational integration mechanisms. behaviour B4 (Individuals integrate knowledge between all different phases of PI) as the key behaviour to enhance. required a quantum leap in the effectiveness of knowledge sharing and capitalisation over time across different sites and product families. a structured database to store and retrieve project knowledge throughout the company was implemented. The CIMA methodology highlighted integration and improvement diffusion within the PI process (P3) as the key performance area to be addressed and. which was a combination of levers L7 and L8. the project manager's role and that of the project work team were redesigned. The resulting increased size and complexity and the competitive pressure both for reduced time-to-market and for improved use of critical resources. Through L3.company X had recently taken over a number of its traditional competitors becoming one of the world leaders in its segment.
there was a limited focus on process improvements (C4). who thought that it was most likely a result of their way of working. individuals and groups use the organisation's strategic goals and objectives to focus and prioritise their improvement and learning activities in the innovation process. which specialised in a particular technological field. Time was the main performance parameter in this extremely dynamic industry and. expectancy of the systems. the R&D centre performed well with respect to knowledge transfer and learning. Furthermore. . The relatively limited evidence of this behaviour was discussed with the site manager. the requirements for effective and timely co-ordination were substantial. The mapping and the subsequent analysis revealed clearly a need for an increased use of a product platform strategy (L1). to political constraints. correspondingly. a constant lack of time. lead-time and life. an R&D centre located in Sweden was studied. organisationally was part of a larger unit. but was geographically isolated from the rest of the company. Company Z (The Netherlands) Company Z was a large Dutch company. which were developed by different partners and (sub) contractors. The centre performed R&D tasks on projects spanning several organisational units.4 500 Company Y (Sweden) At company Y. articulated in: . sensor and communications purposes. which were related. The area that emerged as the most important to attend to was coherence of improvements with corporate goals (P2). the introduction of new performance measurements (L6) that could take knowledge transfer and learning into account in a more explicit way was recommended. This shortcoming pointed to the importance of enhancing the frequency and diffusion of behaviour B1. To some extent this was explained by the unit's short history. Two factors were seen to contribute to this problem.IJOPM 21. in general. which were due to geographical distances and different interpretations of company-wide models and processes. amongst others. a clearly communicated product family strategy (L1) was lacking. high internal complexity due to size. Using the CIMA methodology to map the CPI process. This centre. First. specialised in designing and producing integrated defence systems for command and control. Performing rather clearly demarcated tasks within large projects made it difficult for the employees involved to have a clear picture of strategies and goals at a company level. and an outspoken opportunistic orientation. a leading global company in the telecommunications industry. and then integrated. The R&D centre had been established a few years previously in an attempt to retain skilled engineers by providing interesting jobs in an attractive environment. dimension. In addition. high external complexity. due to different goals of partners. Some of the most important contingencies were: (1) Product and market complexity. The latter was further complicated by integration problems between the units involved in R&D. . it was seen that.
Human resource management activities (L4) such as the development of specialist skills. Through L3. it was felt that L5 (project planning and control systems directed at improvement projects) and L6. measures for creativity e. could contribute to intensifying B3 (individuals use part of available time/resources to experiment with new solutions). stimulate. radar-technology with naval systems expertise. The CIMA methodology was used for mapping and analysing three related projects. job rotation could spread the results of the new PI process and. the conclusion was that there was a more or less clear emergent strategy with implicit goals. the methodology provides a structured. Furthermore. depending on specific contingencies. performance measurement (feedback systems. number of improvements proposed) could impact also on B3. possible interventions based on various levers were identified. L2 (innovation process definition) could diffuse the activities involved in developing and implementing a new innovation process quicker and to a wider part of the company. benchmarking activities. organisational integration mechanisms. diffuse and increase the frequency of favourable behaviours. Finally. a PI strategy. In its current form. (3) High political complexity. Conclusions: managerial implications and future development of the CIMA methodology This article has presented some interim results of the application of the CIMA methodology. This exercise led to the conclusion that process improvement was heavily emphasised at the expense of B3 (individuals use part of available time/ resources to experiment with new solutions) and B4 (individuals integrate knowledge among all different phases of product innovation). In order to improve B4. The conclusion was that explicit use of levers that related to the transfer of knowledge within the PI process and between PI projects/processes could support improvement of the PI process. This process is supported by a behavioural model. However. stepby-step approach to mapping the user company's current level of learning within PI.(2) High technology innovation: defence-industry was highly innovative. combining IT. temporary teams and/or liaison roles and cross-disciplinary meetings could be established. more generally. It was also concluded that there was neither an explicitly articulated product family strategy (L4) nor. explaining relationships between learning behaviours and outcomes. through L4. capacities enabling these Knowledge and continuous innovation 501 . through that. due to decision-making process and national government and industrial interests. Drawing examples of levers from the other CIMA cases of companies with similar contingencies. when looking at daily practice. identifying strengths and weaknesses and then suggesting enabling mechanisms which can be implemented by the company to stimulate continuous improvement and learning. three levers were discussed. human resource management concepts. departmental assessment and development plans.g. (individuals integrate knowledge among all different phases of PI).
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