Successful Solution Design Workshops and Knowledge Process

Key to the successful implementation of an innovation solution is the design of the innovation processes and of the configuration requirements for the software. The activity of solution design, frequently referred to as blueprint creation, occurs during a number of detailed workshops involving the users and suppliers of the solution.

The terms user and supplier are however somewhat misleading in that the suppliers do not deliver a design for the users. Both are, in fact, working together to set up a solution that will be adopted by the organization as a whole. To this extent, all the blueprint workshop participants can be considered as suppliers.

Knowledge Processes and the Success of Blueprint Workshops

In this post I would like to link the success of blueprint workshops to the way in which they apply knowledge processes (KPs). Kraaijenbrink (2012) has based his research on a review of the work on KPs starting with Talcott Parsons and including I. Nonaka and many others to date. The overview used for the research contains 4 principal KPs:

  • Knowledge Creation
  • Knowledge Application
  • Knowledge Integration
  • Knowledge Retention

Each of these is further subdivided creating a list of 24 KPs as well as multiple possible interactions between them. Of the four, Kraaijenbrink's research shows that knowledge integration had the most impact on product development project success.

What I found particularly interesting as a linguist, however, was an overview contained in the article linking the more abstract, academic categories of knowledge management to common terms. Specifically, the terms used in speaking with the engineers and R&D analysts taking part in the research. On the basis of these, I have created a list of points which I have found to influence the success of blueprint workshops for innovation solution design. At the same time, I have listed the academic terms in italics below

KPs Affecting Blueprint Success as Described in Common Terms

Examine the standard form of the software solution before detailed definition of the business process. Widely used innovation software will already include many aspects of the process as used by others, and will facilitate the design.

Knowledge Creation: Analyzing Trends

Ensure that a wide range of skills and disciplines participates in each workshop. Marketing, manufacturing, R&D and legal will tend to optimize their own particular input and make it more accessible to future users when discussing it in front of others. Do not allow only one person to do the design, even a process manager.

Knowledge Integration: Sharing Information; Retention to Integration: Learning from Colleagues

Examine some examples of successfully executed projects during the design work to see if the design would fit. Also, make sure that the solution allows for successes to be replicated by means of a searchable lessons learned archive, implying careful documentation of incidents in the various stages of the project.

Application to retention: archiving projects, constantly improving; Integration to application: reusing results from other projects

Do not rely only on examples from academic literature or suppliers' best practice documentation. Avoid such shortcuts. Make sure that the appropriate discipline in your own organization has reviewed each of the examples. That said, best practices are obviously a great help for starting the discussion. Creation to application: testing obtained samples;

Creation to integration: sharing data sheets

Make sure the different business processes are properly integrated (e.g., automate moving an idea to concept and then to the project execution stage). This should be clearly visible by means of portfolio management graphs for instance.

Retention to Application: Doing Automatically; Integration to Retention: Formalizing Procedures

The values to be analyzed in portfolio reports (part of the data model) need to be calculated in an agreed manner and this standardized calculation formalized (e.g., Risk-Adjusted NPV).

Knowledge Application: Calculating

During the workshops, pay attention to training and education aspects of the design, including rules of governance (e.g., use of role names, how to conduct gate meetings). Estimate the time that will be needed for this, and the methods to be applied.

Creation to Retention: Setting Up a Course

These are some of the more important principles that spring to mind. I am sure many readers will be able to add to these. Which might you add to this list?

Reference: Jeroen Kraaijenbrink Integrating Knowledge and Knowledge Processes: A Critical Incident Study of Product Development Projects Journal of Product Innovation Management, 2012

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