Making the Transition to Lean Product Development
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Our understanding of the application of lean principles in product development (PD) is relatively new—similar perhaps to industry understanding of lean principles shortly after The Machine That Changed the World was published nearly 20 years ago. A few descriptions of Toyota and Toyota-like practices in PD have emerged recently, but there has been no systematic examination of whether simply adopting these practices are sufficient to result in higher performance, and no effort has been made to date to link these practices to the vast existing knowledge base on best practices in PD. Finally, while PD practices associated with lean have been described, there is no discussion of how those practices might be implemented in an organizational setting different from Toyota, as well as the implications for PD interfaces to the greater enterprise, or how that transition would unfold over time. This presentation will describe an evolving research framework to understand the practices that would be part of a lean product development enterprise and how the leaders of that enterprise would select transition paths and milestones on the lean implementation journey. It will discuss research efforts underway to validate and refine the framework and principles. Two of the studies are based on surveys of PD enterprises around the world. One of the studies investigates the relationship between a wide range of PD practices (including those associated with Toyota) and organizational performance outcomes to identify which practices provide the greatest performance impact. The second study is examining the order in which lean principles are implemented in PD systems, and what interdependencies might exist between practices as they are implemented. A case study-based research effort will be discussed that is currently following one PD enterprise through its multi-year transition to more lean, high-performance PD, and understanding the steps along the way, as well as the organizational, management, and workforce issues that enable or inhibit that transition. These and other studies currently underway at LAI seek to expand our understanding of how PD system leaders might implement and benefit from lean principles and practices in their PD systems.
lean, product development (PD)
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