Thinking Beyond Lean (Book Summary)

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This book is about how to get the most out of product development. How can firms create new products that share key components but ensure each product will differ enough to appeal to different customer segments? Multi-project thinking, maximizes the chances that the organization will produce a stream of new products that cover a range of market segments.
Projects that share components and engineering teams can deliver many
products quickly and utilize new technologies. To make this possible, special
organizational mechanisms and processes are necessary.
Introduction
A critical decision for automobile companies, or for that matter, any company building a
complex product with many components or subsystems, is whether to use a functional or
a project structure. This involves several issues, such as:
 Which functions should companies keep centralized to take advantage of scale
and scope economies by providing engineering services and components to more
than one project?
 Which functions should companies disperse among projects in order to maximize
the distinctiveness and innovativeness of the individual products?
 How much authority over budgets and personnel should a project manager have
compared to managers of functional departments?
 To what extent should companies seek a balance of functional and project
management by grouping related projects together and then sharing some
technologies as well as functions at least for clusters of similar projects?
This fascinating book by Cusumano and Nobeoka explains the principles of lean product
development. Lean thinking, which emphasizes less of everything – fewer people, less
time, lower costs – can significantly improve project performance. During the 1980s, for
example, many Japanese automakers used heavyweight project managers, overlapping
phases, and other techniques when they replaced and expanded their product lines nearly twice as often as U.S. and European companies.
But to get the most out of their investments, leading companies have already shifted their attention beyond simply the efficient management of individual projects, which may enjoy so much autonomy that they result in “fat” designs – too few common components and too many unnecessary features and options. Then the company may fall into the trap of optimizing product development for the good of each project rather than for the good of the firm as a whole.
The best way to work for the good of the firm and create a portfolio of products at low
cost is to shift into a multi-project mode. A firm must develop some totally new products
but pay equal attention to developing common core components and quickly sharing
these across multiple projects. Multi-project management, requires conscious, planned…
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Also see:

The Toyota Way (Book Summary)

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