John Bicheno reviews Rob Westrick and Chris Cooper’s Winning By Design.

The areas of Innovation, Design and New Product Development remain somewhat of a ‘Cinderella’ in lean. A generous interpretation from a sample of four lean conferences in 2012 revealed a total of 7 presentations out of 91 in the area.

This is unfortunate. It is now increasingly recognized that most waste becomes built in during design and development. Moreover there are the huge competitive advantages that reducing development time brings. This was highlighted 25 years ago in Womack and Jones’ The Machine that Changed the World. Toyota has been very open about TPS, but far more cagey about TDS (Toyota Design System). Nevertheless, it has been the case that lean design has been dominated by texts relating to Toyota. Authors such as Ward, Sobek and Kennedy come to mind.

Of course, not everyone is in a design situation with highly complex products, large design teams, with many products in parallel at any one time, coordinating with hundreds of suppliers, and working internationally. This is where Rob and Chris’ book makes such a valuable, new contribution. The book will be of immediate assistance to those hundreds of companies that should be gaining huge advantage from lean design but are not doing so due to lack of guidance, or even misguidance.

So Rob and Chris, both practical design engineers with years of experience, are able to cut through the fog by making the distinction between recurring manufacturing activities and non-recurring NPD activities. Not making this distinction has led several to the mis-application of lean concepts and tools that work well in manufacturing, but not in design (or in service!).

Many who work in Design will be aware of the Design Council’s ‘Double Diamond’ concept: Discover, Define, Develop, Deliver. But Rob and Chris take this further by extending the concept into two double diamonds, each diamond becoming more focused, before even getting into manufacture. This forms the framework of the book, enabling clear vision of the process with integration of appropriate tools at each stage. Some of the tools described in the book will be familiar to designers, but others such as vertical value stream mapping were new to me, and have great proven potential for many organizations.

Another breakthrough concept (one of several) is their ‘vertical value stream map’ that assists in achieving the flow of decisions. It is decision flow, rather than physical flow, that should be the central concept in lean design.

What is so good about this book is that it can used by different groups – engineers or managers – on several different levels – from a stand-alone resource to a good introduction for getting into a particular concept. All this is tied in to an integrated framework that will guide you end-to-end through a long-misunderstood area of great potential. I think this book is one of the very few that can help you into a new phase of your Lean S curve.