Managing The Design FactoryPosted March 13, 2005 in misc
I just finished reading Don Reinertsen’s book.
The book is definitelly worth reading. According to the author, he attempts to apply the concepts behind Just-In-Time Manufacturing to Product Development. This made me a bit suspicious initially as it sounded like another attempt to apply statistical process control to development. But that isn’t what this book is about.
The difference between this and other books is that he doesn’t offer some pret-a-porter methodology to apply to your project. He offers you a way of thinking about product development and some tools that you can use to find out what works best for your situation.
In my view his ground rules are
- let your decisions be driven by their economic impact
- there are no best practices, only “most appropriate” practices (it isn’t about know-how, it’s about know-why)
- optimize the system (also control only what needs controlling)
- design is information generation
A real eye-opener is his interest in queueing theory. He says variability is very high in design tasks as they are “information generation tasks”, i.e. one-time tasks. Uncertainty in arrival times and task durations implies queues. Thus we need to understand how queues work to understand our development process.
I think he likes small batch sizes because they avoid queues and generate information early.
He also has some nice non-JIT-specific advice:
- know your customer better than he does himself
- respect people
In my view, his book is strongest in the initial section about thinking tools and not so strong in the section about action tools. In particular the “design the design process” chapter was a bit weak. The chapter on product specification was great though…
More about Reinertsen:
- You can get a good feel for the book from this interview or from this review.
- At Electronic Design: Department – The Design Factory
- At the Agile Management website
- “Applying Batch Size to Product Development: Interview with Don Reinertsen – Part 1 ":http://www.qmisolutions.com.au/article.asp?aid=97 and Part 2. The article is also available here