The Transfer of Knowledge in PDCA


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The Knowledge Vee by Gowin offers a unique perspective for Lean People trying to apply Lean to Sales and Marketing. Most of us relate PDCA to the typical manufacturing analogies such as cycle time and waste reduction. The Knowledge Vee, I have found to be useful in transferring the knowledge-creation activities or thoughts to PDCA. Overlaying PDCA on the Knowledge Vee correlates to what must occur when viewing PDCA as a knowledge creating methodology. I think it adds a much better focus.

Knoweldge Vee PDCA

The basic description of the Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) Model:

The Deming Cycle or The Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) model is a proven framework for implementing continuous quality improvement. It originated in the 1920s with Walter A. Shewhart. These four steps provide a framework for continuous improvement. The PDCA cycle basically starts with a plan and ends with an action in accordance with the information learned during the process. In later years Deming changed the Check portion to the term Study to highlight the creation and validation of new knowledge during that portion of the cycle.

A Comparison between the basic PDCA description and the Knowledge Vee:

Plan: The Plan stage is where you define the customer objectives or determine the conditions and methods required to achieve the objectives. It is imperative that you clearly describe the customer need you must fulfill and the goals and policies required to achieve the objectives at this stage.

Summary of a typical Plan stage:

  • State the objective of the change.
  • Define causes within the current state that keep the system from achieving the objective.
  • Determine baseline measurements of the existing process.
  • Understand the causes that make up the problem.
  • Decide what needs to change to eliminate the problem.
  • Develop a plan to carry out the change

Summary of the Plan Stage within a Knowledge Vee

  • World View: The general belief and knowledge system motivating and guiding the inquiry.
  • Philosophy: The beliefs about the nature of knowledge and knowing guiding the inquiry.
  • Theory: The general principles guiding why events or objects exhibit what is observed.
  • Principles: Statements of relationships between concepts that explain how events or objects can be expected to appear or behave.

Do: In the Do stage, conditions are created and the necessary training or additional support to execute the plan is implemented. It is important that the sales/marketing teams completely understand the objectives of the plan and are in agreement with the procedures needed to fulfill the plan. The work is then performed according to these procedures.

Summary of a typical Do Stage:

  • Implement the change in trial form.
  • Adjust and modify where needed.
  • Document what you have learned, both expected and unexpected

Summary of the Do Stage within a Knowledge Vee:

  • Concepts: Perceived regularity in events or objects (or records of events or objects) designated by a label.
  • Events and/or Objects: Description of the event(s) and/or objects) to be studied in order to answer the focus question.

Check (Study): In the Check stage, one must check to determine whether work is progressing according to the plan and whether the expected results are obtained. The performance of the set procedures must be checked against changes in conditions, or deviations may appear. As often as possible, the results of the work should be compared with the objectives. If a check detects a deviation (actual value differs from the target value) then, search for the cause of the deviation must be initiated to prevent its recurrence.

Summary of the typical Check Stage:

  • Analyze the data.
  • Compare data to predictions.
  • Summarize what was learned from the trial.
  • Proceed with full implementation if results are acceptable or return to the Plan phase.

Summary of the Check Stage within a Knowledge Vee:

  • Records: The observations made and recorded from the events/objects studied.
  • Constructs: Ideas showing specific relationships between concepts without direct origin in events or objects
  • Transformations: Tables, graphs, concept maps, statistics, or other forms of organization of records made.

Act (Adjust): If the Action stage determines that the work is not being performed according to plan or those results are not what were anticipated, measures must be devised for appropriate action, and you go back thru the next project.

Summary of the typical Act Stage:

  • Standardize changes learned into the implementation.
  • Complete the data analysis and verify to the target.
  • Establish the process/controls needed to monitor.
  • Maintain the improvement over time.
  • Determine when the next improvement cycle is needed.

Summary of the Act Stage within a Knowledge Vee:

  • Knowledge Claims: Statements that answer the focus question(s), reasonable interpretations of the records and transformations made
  • Value Claims: Statements based on knowledge claims that declare the worth or value of the inquiry.

We talk about Knowledge Creation within a company, and it seems to be one of those discussions at the 50,000 foot level that is better off left to consultants and authors. It always sounds great, but it rarely is something that can be used at a practical level. The problem you typically have is that you do not have a formalized way to document and share the knowledge created. In using the Knowledge Vee, we form a Focus Question that we can “Plan” the learning that needs to take place through an event or encounter – the Do part. In the Knowledge Vee, we will deliver or demonstrate knowledge through the event then Check (Measure) to see that knowledge has transferred or in the sales process we may want to call it accepted or agreed upon. We then Act (adjust) our claims of knowledge and value to the customer’s point of view.

D. Bob Gowin and Joseph D Novak have written on the Knowledge Vee extensively and the books I would recommend are: Learning How to Learn and Learning, Creating, and Using Knowledge: Concept Maps as Facilitative Tools in Schools and Corporations.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Joseph Dager
Business901 is a firm specializing in bringing the continuous improvement process to the sales and marketing arena. He has authored the books the Lean Marketing House, Marketing with A3 and Marketing with PDCA. The Business901 Blog and Podcast includes many leading edge thinkers and has been featured numerous times for its contributions to the Bloomberg's Business Week Exchange.


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