Book Notes: The Lean Machine - Dantar P. Oosterwal

Book Notes: The Lean Machine - Dantar P. Oosterwal
Former Harley-Davidson, Dantar Oosterwal offers an exclusive look at how they were able to adapt to an ever-changing world to stay on top and stay in existence.


Title: The Lean Machine: How Harley-Davidson Drove Top-Line Growth and Profitability with Revolutionary Lean Product Development
Author: Dantar P. Oosterwal
Themes: Leadership, Management, Business, Agile, Lean
Year: 2010
Publisher: Amacom
ISBN: 081441379X, 9780814413791
Pages: 272

From near-extinction in the early eighties, the Harley-Davidson Company has risen to worldwide recognition for management excellence and innovation and is a standout leader in the realm of product development. 

Former Harley-Davidson executive Dantar Oosterwal shares his insider perspective on how Harley-Davidson survived and thrived in an ever-changing world.

Harley-Davidson rose from near extinction in the early eighties to become one of the world's most iconic motorcycle brands. 

Dantar Oosterwal explains how Harley-Davidson adapted to an ever-changing world to stay on top and survive in this insider guide.

Through the Knowledge-Based Product Development method, Harley realized an unprecedented fourfold increase in throughput in half the time--powering annual growth of more than 10%.

In the Lean Machine, you will find a combination of business journals, analysis, and step-by-step toolkits that will guide you to predictably excellent results in every industry.

Book Notes: The Lean Machine - Dantar P. Oosterwal

Like many celebrated companies, Harley-Davidson has soared, faltered, nearly died, and come back to life as 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.

"... Rather than react to the present, learning organizations seek to create their future..."

"... Personal mastery necessitates opening our minds to learning, developing patience, and continuously striving to see reality objectively..."

"... The changes necessary required a dispersion of power, that is, managers who lead by empowering knowledge workers to contribute through the shared decision making..."

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 “firefighting,” which funnels 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 narrative, 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.

Chapters of the Book:

Chapter 1 - Working Hard
Springtime in Paris
The Concurrent Product Development Process
A Reality Check
Unexpected Competition
Problems Late in the Development Process

Chapter 2 - The Harley-Davidson Environment
Harley-Davidson Was Different
Consensus Decision Making
We Fulfill Dreams
Lessons from the Dark Days
The Circle Organization
Consensus-Driven Organization
Managing Conflict
The Harley-Davidson Business Process
Organizational Learning

Chapter 3 - Harley-Davidson’s Product Development Leadership
Learning Team
The PDL2T Journey
Learning Organizations

Chapter 4 - The PDL2T
Systems Thinking
Learning to See the Product Development System
Learningful Conversations
Creating Shared Vision

Chapter 5 - Firefighting and the Tipping Point
The MIT Connection
The Tipping Point
Past the Tipping Point
Lessons from Beyond the Brink

Chapter 6 - Cadence and Flow, Bins and Swirl
The Outstanding Corporate Innovator
Product Development Flow
Product Development Cadence
The Application of Cadence and Flow
Heuristic Rules of Thumb
The Innovation Swirl

Chapter 7 - Supply and Demand
The System Dynamics Model of the Motorcycle Business
A Soft Landing by Reducing Shipments
Generating Product Demand
Developing New Products

Chapter 8 - A Left Turn: Implementing Lean Principles in Product Development
Don’t Bring Lean Manufacturing Upstream
The Roots of Knowledge-Based Product Development
The Systems Approach to Flight
Work Smarter, Not Harder

Chapter 9 - The Product Development Limit Curve
Haste Makes Waste
Bad Systems Beat Good People
Design Rework Loops
Product Development Is Predictable

Chapter 10 - Integration Points and False Positive Feasibility
False Positive Feasibility
Design Cycles and Integration Points

Chapter 11 - Learning Cycles
The Learning Cycle
Set-Based Product Development

Chapter 12 - Set-Based Design
A New Framework for Product Development
The Second Piece of the Limit Curve Puzzle

Chapter 13 - Leadership Learning and Pull Events
The Leadership Learning Change Model
Early Pull Events
Creating Leverage Through Pull Events

Chapter 14 - Quickening Product Development
Railroad Planning versus Combat Planning
Establishing and Using Help Chains
Using Visual Management

Chapter 15 - Oobeya
Collaboration Using the Oobeya Process
The Oobeya Process
The Wall
Quickening the Pace of Innovation

Chapter 16 - Knowledge-Based Product Development
Indications of Success
Creating Change


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.

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