Visible knowledge is a tool nearly lost in the West, but it has been used to great effect by Toyota in its 50-year march from noncompetitiveness to its current status as the second largest automobile company in the world. It is key for the 50% growth in market share Toyota plans for this decade despite worldwide overcapacity in the auto business. This book presents the reader with a systematic approach to create, capture, and display knowledge in a way that allows development teams to optimize the design of their products and production processes. Visible knowledge not only applies to knowledge management, but provides a means of collaboration to facilitate better decision-making in the development process.
This book has evolved out of a manuscript that Allen Ward, the foremost U.S. expert on lean product development, was writing at the time of his untimely death. It is not intended to be a treatise of Lean product development methods. Quite the opposite—it is focused on one small piece, "visible knowledge." It is, however, one technique that Dantar Oosterwal and Durward Sobek have found to be very effective at Harley-Davidson and other places, and a tool that can make a difference whether used by itself or as a starting point for a larger journey into Lean product development.
In completing this work, Oosterwal and Sobek kept the aim true to Allen’s original intent. The preface and first three chapters are essentially Allen’s original intellectual contribution. They have made editorial changes to improve readability and clarity of explanation. Throughout, they have attempted to preserve Allen’s voice in the writing, even keeping the narrative in first person as it was originally written. They have also added a fourth chapter that highlights some practical ways to apply the ideas presented in earlier chapters, illustrated with case examples from their experience.
"The ability to capture and apply knowledge is a key factor in a successful product development system. Allen Ward’s visible knowledge approach is a powerful enabler for improved learning and decision making. Thanks to Durward and Dantar for bringing us this important work."
-Jim Morgan, Senior Advisor for the Lean Enterprise Institute and former product development executive for the Ford Motor Company.
Preface. Acknowledgments. Introduction. Chapter 1: How and Why to Use Visible Knowledge. Chapter 2: How to Create Visible Knowledge. Chapter 3: Visible Knowledge and Companies