Book Notes #46: 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

Are you ready to revolutionize the way you think about manufacturing and production? Look no further than 'The Lean Machine' by Dantar P. Oosterwal. 

This groundbreaking book delves into the principles of Lean Manufacturing, a methodology that emphasizes efficiency, waste reduction, and continuous improvement. 

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.

My Book Highlights:

"... The creation of reusable knowledge comes from the Wright brothers, lean principles from Henry Ford and Taiichi Ohno, development cadence from Thomas Edison, learning cycles from John Dewey, and P-D-C-A from W. Edwards Deming. These principles are the beginning rather than the end of improving product development productivity..."

"... The five disciplines of a learning organization are 1. Systems thinking. 2. Personal mastery. 3. Mental models. 4. Building shared vision. 5. Collective team learning..."

"... The intent of the multiple sets was not to produce multiple alternatives for design solutions, but rather to create varied design parameters to explore specific attributes needed to close the knowledge gap..."

"... Now, it is not only necessary to do the right thing but to do it in the right way and the only problem you have is what is the right thing to do and what is the right way to do it..."

"... You are a product of your environment. So choose the environment that will best develop you toward your objective. Analyze your life in terms of its environment..."

"... It's not the test information you collect that's important, but how it's digested and made visible to create reusable knowledge that's important..."

"... We tend to focus on the parts that are visible rather than seeing the whole, and in turn, we fail to see the organization as a dynamic organism. Systems thinking argues that a better appreciation of the system leads to more appropriate action..."

"... The knowledge-based development system that creates reusable knowledge is built on two pillars: (1) cadence and flow and (2) set-based design..."

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

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.

The key concepts in "The Lean Machine" by Dantar P. Oosterwal include:

Lean Manufacturing: The book describes the principles of Lean Manufacturing, which is a methodology that emphasizes efficiency, waste reduction, and continuous improvement.

Value Stream Mapping: The author explains the process of Value Stream Mapping, which is a tool used to identify and eliminate waste in manufacturing processes.

Kanban: The book introduces Kanban, which is a pull-based system that helps to manage the flow of materials in a production process.

Continuous Improvement: The author stresses the importance of continuous improvement in achieving a truly Lean operation.

5S: The book covers the 5S method, which is a system for organizing and maintaining a clean and orderly workplace.

Kaizen: The author discuss Kaizen, which is a Japanese term for continuous improvement. It is a key element in the Lean methodology.

TPM (Total Productive Maintenance): The author also discuss TPM, which is a maintenance strategy that focuses on involving operators in the maintenance process to improve equipment effectiveness.

Overall the book emphasizes on how to achieve efficiency and eliminate waste in manufacturing processes by applying lean manufacturing principles, tools and methodologies.

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.

Reading this book will give you a better understanding of how to create a truly Lean Machine and improve efficiency and eliminate waste in your manufacturing processes. 

The author presents the information in an easy-to-understand manner, making it a valuable resource for professionals and managers in any industry.

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's The Lean Machine provides a comprehensive and practical guide to becoming an Agile software engineer. 

This book introduces the reader to the fundamental principles of Agile software engineering and provides practical advice on how to apply those principles to increase effectiveness, reduce costs, and deliver better results. 

It also discusses the importance of collaboration and communication across teams and provides valuable insights into the Agile software development process. 

With The Lean Machine, engineers can get a comprehensive understanding of the Agile principles and learn how to apply them to become more efficient and successful.

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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