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Lean development strives for knowledge and idea reuse

Lean designers start with a review of the prior knowledge and proven ideas and end with documenting updates of that knowledge or new knowledge.

I have run a simple experiment which measured the effectiveness of knowledge sharing with groups simulating a develop environment. The simple experiment is an open-ended problem that requires problem solving to reach a solution. Knowledge sharing improves the outcome. After teams share ideas and knowledge, their success rate and quality improves by 100%.

A Knowledge A3 is simply knowledge captured on a single page of metric A3 paper (approximately 11 x 17 inches). They provide a vehicle to capture and communicate knowledge across the development organization.  Reusable knowledge A3s written to capture knowledge  take a certain amount of effort to create, but they are worth the effort!

A3

These types of A3s are quite different from the A3s used by many Lean Manufacturing companies to manage a Kaizen used for tracking tasks to move from a current state to a future state.  A Knowledge A3 is less about doing things, and all about documenting important knowledge and learning.

For knowledge and ideas to be reused and improve the development cycle for the next project, ideas and knowledge must be documented, but more importantly, they must be easily found and reused.   The goal is to set up the knowledge pull within the organization. Therefore, the A3s must be put into a knowledge supermarket from which they can be pulled.   (In this case, “pull” is defined as retrieving and reusing knowledge as it is needed or per the demand of the next project).

It is important to take the time to ensure that Knowledge A3 is truly generalized, that it is from a trusted source, and that it is accessible.  These are three important characteristics of a well-functioning knowledge management system.  Toyota did this for many years by creating the “Know-How” database.  It was described in the book The Machine that Changed the World.   It is one example of how a Lean company (Toyota in this case) approached their development process by focusing on knowledge.   The “Know-How” database existed in paper form for decades before Toyota converted it to an electronic system.  Toyota had kept knowledge on everything from door handles to transmissions. The “Know-How” database represented the knowledge, engineering guidelines, and checklists that guided the design process to ensured quality.

Your Knowledge A3s will be focused on your own products, systems, and sub-systems.   The knowledge A3s work for IT systems and IT development just the same.  Knowledge A3s might be about a particular set of user needs or use models.  Alternately, the A3 might be about the architecture of the system itself, or about an important sub-system.   The goal is to document the knowledge so it can be pulled and reused each time a similar system or sub-system is developed.

For entrepreneurs working at a new start up, knowledge reuse is even more important in these cases.  Using prior knowledge to not reinvent the wheel for creating the business or the products certainly speeds up the time to market.

Lean design requires idea and knowledge sharing.

For Lean Development Excelence

Tim Schipper

Author of Innovative Lean Development.

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