January 13, 2010
Like many celebrated companies, Harley-Davidson has soared, faltered, nearly died, and come back to life is a robust, iconic institution. And like all enduring companies, it learned that the constant push to improve and innovate is essential for staying on top – and even for staying in existence.
The Lean Machine is an intriguing, behind-the-scenes account of Harley Davidson’s remarkable post-bankruptcy growth period, spurred largely by radical improvements to its product development processes. As director of product development, author Dantar Oosterwal was instrumental in applying lean principles to the realm of product development (principles made famous by Toyota’s vaunted production system). The result was the highly efficient and effective “Knowledge-based Product Development” – a revolutionary system that reduced development time by half, and quadrupled new product development throughput.
Combining a probing, nuanced examination of the product development process with a sweeping systems approach to understanding its full scope and impact on an organization, The Lean Machine traces the evolution that the Harley-Davidson product development team underwent as it moved to its breakthrough process of cadence, flows, and set-based designs, stopping along the way to:
- Explore the far-reaching effect of “fire-fighting,” which fondles huge amounts of time, money, and human resources into fixing last-minute problems.
- Pinpoint the hidden problem of “False Positive Feasibility,” which dooms many projects developed with common phase-gate processes.
- Explain the remarkably practical, low-tech oobeya process for visually documenting targets, objectives, and workflow.
- Uncover the powerful results achieved by building product development on a foundation of planned, experiential learning cycles.
- Make a persuasive case for adopting a “combat planning” approach to product development, which is better suited to turbulent conditions.
Packed with actual data, true stories, and engaging, first-person narratives, The Lean Machine gives you deep insights and reliably effective strategies for using knowledge-based product development to radically improve your own systems, developing more new products in much less time – and with predictably excellent results.
Dantar P. Oosterwal has led global innovation improvements as vice president of innovation at Sara Lee and as director of product development at Harley-Davidson. Dantar holds a B.S. degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Michigan, and a master’s degree in Management from the Sloan School of Management at MIT. He lives in Batavia, Illinois.