In English

Building on Knowledge - An analysis of knowledge transfer in Product Development

Ludvig Alfredson ; Björn Söderberg
Göteborg : Chalmers tekniska högskola, 2009. 73 s.
[Examensarbete på avancerad nivå]

The challenge to reuse knowledge that reside in the company, either in people’s minds or documented in any way, is a tough one. But the benefits from having a proper way to look at knowledge and structures that support learning are vast. If no one in a product development organization, or any organization for that matter, ever did the same mistake twice, and no one ever repeated others mistakes, all those working hours could be spent on building competence for the future instead. This challenge was accepted in September 2008 by two Master Students in Product Development at Chalmers. The thesis is written in collaboration with a project at Swerea IVF, which has the purpose of describing how an implementation of Lean product development in Swedish industry could be done. Seventeen people at five companies were interviewed to provide a basis for to what extent and how these issues are dealt with in the industry. The interviewees also graded their companies in the field and how important the issue of knowledge reuse is. The interviews resulted in the identification of two specific methods that are currently used; the white book and the database. None of the companies considered the methods to work satisfactory which indicates the need for better ways to work. Two types of barriers for knowledge transfer were identified, formal barriers; i.e. poor transferability, project focus, employee turnover, and poor problem solving, and informal barriers; poor learning environment, poor managerial support and a weak sense of responsibility. The conclusions correspond to the identified barriers, saying that all these things need to be worked with in order to get leverage on knowledge initiatives. Six different topics are regarded as particularly important: - Move the focus from specific development projects to a continuous development of product functionality and performance. The constant strive to balance time, cost and quality in projects leads to a lack of learning over time. - Give people the responsibility of their work. If command and control is the philosophy of managers, people will have low motivation for learning. - Identify and point out “knowledge owners”. Make sure that every important area of knowledge is taken responsible for by a single or a group of people, to assure long term development. - Establish a solid introduction program for new employees. - Make learning a corporate goal. Considering learning and continuous improvement as a key to long term success is vital, as well as the active support and drive for learning initiatives from leaders in the organization. - Lean product development provides mindsets and tools that address the barriers for knowledge transfer identified. Lean product development is about making knowledge develop through standardization and clear responsibilities, and spread through visualization and a learning mentality.

Nyckelord: Knowledge transfer, Organizational learning, Knowledge management, Project management, Lean product development