Managing the Design Factory

A Product Developer's Toolkit

Donald G. Reinertsen

Publisher: Free Press, 1997, 267 pages

ISBN: 0-684-83991-1

Keywords: Product Management

Last modified: July 24, 2021, 10:30 p.m.

The man who launched a revolution in product development with his best-selling Developing Products in Half the Time is back with a new book that's also certain to be a classic. In Managing the Design Factory, Donald G. Reinertsen presents concepts and practical tools that will be invaluable for anyone trying to get products out of the pipeline and into the market.

The first book to put the principles of World Class Manufacturing to work in the development process, Managing the Design Factory combines the powerful analytical tools of queuing, information, and system theories with the proven ideas of organization design and risk management. The result: a methodical approach to consistently hit the "sweet spot" of quality, cost, and time in developing any product. Reinertsen illustrates these concepts with concrete examples drawn from his work with many leading companies across different industries.

Fresh and thought-provoking, the book challenges many of the conventional approaches to product development. "There are no best practices", Reinertsen writes, "the idea of best practices is a seductive, but dangerous trap". Unlike other books that promote rules and rituals based on benchmarking "best practices", this book focuses on practical tools that account for varied situations. He breaks new ground with a disciplined, quantitative approach for making decisions on critical issues: When should we use a sequential or concurrent process? Centralized or decentralized control? Functional or team organizations?

Full of practical techniques, concrete examples, and solid general principles, this is a real toolkit for product developers. Moreover, it is written with the clarity, precision, and humor that are Renertsen's trademarks. He promises to challenge the thinking of anyone involved in product development.

    • Introduction
      • Revolution in the Factory
      • Into the Witch Doctor's Tent
      • There Are No Best Practices
      • Where Ideas Come From
      • The Organization of This Book
  • Part One: The Design Factory
    1. Into the Design Factory
      • Our Goals Are Economic
      • Products vs. Designs
      • Design-in-Process Inventory
      • Rising Cost of Change
      • Late-Breaking News
      • One-Time Processes
      • Expanding Work
      • Summary
  • Part Two: Thinking Tools
    1. Making Profits Not Products
      • Project Models
      • Application Models
      • Models of Process Economics
      • Tactical vs. Strategic Decisions
      • Some Practical Tips
      • Summary
    2. Entering the Land of Queues
      • An Introduction to Queuing Theory
      • The Economics of Queues
      • Depicting Queues
      • Implications of Queuing Theory
      • Dealing with Queues
        • Increasing Capacity
        • Managing Demand
        • Reducing Variability
        • Using Control Systems
      • The Location of Batch Queues
      • Little's Law
      • Typical Queues
      • Summary
    3. It's All About Information
      • Information Theory
      • Efficient Generation of Information
      • Maximizing Information: The Magic Number 50 Percent
      • Information Differs in Value
        • Timing: Earlier Is Better
        • Batch Size Affects Timing
        • Iterations Generate Early Information
        • The Potential Profit Impact
      • Do It Right the First Time?
      • Communicating Failures
      • Protecting Against Failure
      • Task Sequencing
      • Monitoring
      • Summary
    4. Just Add Feedback
      • Systems Theory
      • Systems with Feedback
      • Properties of Systems with Feedback
        • Difficulty in Troubleshooting
        • Instability and Chaos
        • Accuracy and Feedback
        • Variability Within a System
      • More Complex Control Systems
      • Summary
  • Part Three: Action Tools
    1. Choose the Right Organization
      • The Organization as a System
      • Assessing Organizational Forms
      • Efficiency: The Functional Organization
      • Speed: The Autonomous Team
      • Performance and Cost: Hybrid Organizations
      • Dividing Responsibilities
      • Communications
        • Old Communications Tools
        • New Communications Technologies
      • Colocation
      • Summary
    2. Design the Design Process
      • Combining Structure and Freedom
        • One-Time Processes
        • Modular Processes
        • A Pattern Language
      • Designing Process Stages
        • Input Subprocess
        • Technology vs. Product Development
        • Controlling Queues
        • Subprocess Design
        • Output Processes
      • Key Design Principles
        • Sequential vs. Concurrent Processes
        • Managing Information Profiles
        • Decentralizing Control and Feedback
        • Location of Batch Queues
      • Specific Process Implementations
      • Evolving the Process
      • Summary
    3. Product Architecture: The Invisible Design
      • Underlying Principles
        • Modularity
        • Segregating Variability
        • Interface Management
      • Specific Architectural Implementations
        • Low-Expense Architectures
        • Low-Cost Architectures
        • High-Performance Architectures
        • Fast-Development Architectures
      • Who Does It?
      • Summary
    4. Get the Product Specification Right
      • It Starts with Strategy
      • Selecting the Customer
      • Understanding the Customer
        • Customer Interviews
        • Meticulous Observation
        • Focus Groups
      • Creating a Good Specification
        • The Minimalist Specification
        • A Product Mission
        • The Specification Process
      • Using the Specification
      • Specific Implementations
      • Summary
    5. Use the Right Tools
      • The Use of Technology
        • Accelerated Information Flow
        • Improved Productivity
        • Reduced Delays
      • Implementation Principles
        • Technology Changes Process
        • Pay Attention to Economics
      • Technologies
        • Design Automation
        • Prototyping and Testing
        • Communications
        • Information Storage and Retrieval
      • Summary
    6. Measure the Right Things
      • General Principles
        • Drive Metrics from Economics
        • The Control Triangle
        • Decentralizing Control
        • Selecting Metrics
      • Project-Level Controls
        • Expense-Focused Controls
        • Cost-Focused Controls
        • Performance-Focused Controls
        • Speed-Focused Controls
      • Business Level Controls
        • Expense-Focused Controls
        • Cost-Focused Controls
        • Performance-Focused Controls
        • Speed-Focused Controls
      • Summary
    7. Manage Uncertainty and Risk
      • Market and Technical Risk
      • Managing Market Risk
        • Use a Substitute Product
        • Simulate the Risky Attribute
        • Make the Design Flexible
        • Move Fast
      • Managing Technical Risk
        • Controlling Subsystem Risk
        • Controlling System Integration Risk
        • Back-up Plans
      • World Class Testing
        • Cheap Testing
        • Low Unit Cost Impact
        • Maximizing Performance
        • Fast Testing
        • Continuous Improvement
      • Summary
  • Part Four: Next Steps
    1. Now What Do I Do?
      • Do Your Math
      • Use Decision Rules
      • Pay Attention to Capacity Utilization
      • Pay Attention to Batch Size
      • Respect Variability
      • Think Clearly About Risk
      • Think Systems
      • Respect the People
      • Design the Process Thoughtfully
      • Pay Attention to Architecture
      • Deeply Understand the Customer
      • Eliminate Useless Controls
      • Get to the Front Lines
      • Avoid Slogans


Managing the Design Factory

Reviewed by Roland Buresund

OK ***** (5 out of 10)

Last modified: May 21, 2007, 3:12 a.m.

Product development, mixed with some operations theory.


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