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.
Table of Contents
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
Many consider Allen Ward the patriarch of Lean product development. According to James Womack (Founder of the Lean Enterprise Institute) although many have studied Toyota as astute observers, very few truly understood what they were observing and extracted the principles that made Toyota methods effective. Because it is generally not possible (or even reasonable) to duplicate Toyota's Product Development System in other companies directly, it is critical to understand why it works in order to leverage the principles in other companies. Based on a decade of direct research at Toyota, Allen provided tremendous insight into what is important for effective development processes and how they work. Although Allen died in 2004, he is still seen as the founder of the lean product development movement and held in highest esteem by those who want to learn lean development methods. .
Durward K. Sobek II is a Professor and Program Coordinator of Industrial and Management Systems Engineering at Montana State University. He holds Ph.D. and M.S. degrees in Industrial and Operations Engineering from the University of Michigan, and an A.B. degree in Engineering Sciences from Dartmouth College. Dr. Sobek has been researching lean product development and lean healthcare for nearly two decades, focusing on how organizations can increase their performance capacity through the application of lean principles. He is co-founder of the not-for-profit Lean Product and Process Development Exchange, Inc. whose mission is to share and expand the body of knowledge around lean product and process development. He is a frequent presenter, and has written published articles in Harvard Business Review, Sloan Management Review, and IEEE Transactions on Engineering Management among other publications. He is co-author of Lean Product and Process Development, 2nd edition with Allen C. Ward; and is co-author of the Shingo Prize winning book Understanding A3 Thinking: A Critical Component of Toyota's PDCA Management System.
Dantar Oosterwal is a Lean product development practitioner, advisor, speaker, and author. He co-founded the Milwaukee Consulting Group focused on helping organizations implement continuous improvement principles. Before founding the Milwaukee Consulting Group, he was Global Vice President of innovation at Sara Lee where he drove over 30% improvement in product development throughput and increased revenue from new innovation from 5% to 20% through the implementation of Lean product development methods.
Prior to Sara Lee, Dantar was Director of Product Development at Harley-Davidson where he first learned and drove implementation of lean product development methods. This effort led to a 4-fold improvement in product development throughput and over 50% acceleration in time to market with a customer satisfaction level of 98% repurchase intent
Dantar authored the popular book, The Lean Machine, which describes the lean product development transformation at Harley-Davidson. As an avid proponent of lean product development, he continues to promote lean product development and share his experiences to help companies learn and institute Lean development practices. He writes articles and is a popular speaker at events as diverse as delivering the keynote address at Lean Lab 2012 in Stockholm Sweden, to participating in Innovation Roundtable at the University of Chicago. Dantar holds degrees from The University of Michigan, and The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
"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.