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Harley Davidson’s Lean Machine. Driving the Revolutionary Lean Product Development.

Harley Davidson’s Lean Machine. Driving the Revolutionary Lean Product Development.

At the Harley-Davidson Motor Company, rapid innovation is a necessity, not an option.

“Harley-Davidson’s success is the result of a seasoned management team deeply committed to and in tune with their customers’ dreams.”

Creativity flourishes in its “generative” learning environment.

Harley-Davidson avoids panic by accepting constant change.

Organizations that always are putting out fires will eventually get burned.

Corporate success depends on the consistent development of new products.

“The oobeya process was a vehicle to visualize the product development system.”

Project planning and execution must be fluid enough to respond to the unexpected.

“Business success is derived through the repeated execution and the continuous improvement of key business processes.”

Talented people cannot overcome a flawed system. And a system is only as effective as its leadership.

“When a project fails, the project leader is chastised. There is little recognition that the environment we create establishes an unseen system – and a bad system will beat good people every time.”

The four principles of the “Leadership Learning Change Model” are:

“Observation” – Patterns reveal the structures of a system. Examining and charting the actions within an organization’s system is the best way to discern its behavioral patterns so leaders can explain them to everyone involved and seek improvement.

“Assessment” – Frank, open discussion of these patterns will help participants understand how people in the organization behave and assess their effectiveness. Compare the results of their actions with the objectives the system set out to achieve.

“Collaboration” – Comparisons, trials and tests can be beneficial, but ultimately leaders must act together decisively to bring about change. This requires collaborating to create “new visions and mental models.”

“Implementation” – Transforming an organization requires altering its “working habits and culture.” Employing new techniques and strategies will once again produce observable patterns that participants and managers can scrutinize and modify. This is the “cycle of continuous improvement” that fuels any successful system.

Learning demands evaluation, reflection and action.

Learning organizations are never stagnant. They are always looking for an edge and they value originality.

Learning organizations are defined by their ability to master these elements:

“Systems thinking” – Managers must consider the consequences of certain actions over the long run and view systems in their entirety. Reducing your sales force, for instance, may save money in the short term, but, over time, could cripple your company’s ability to penetrate a competitor’s market.

“Personal mastery” – Individuals should be confident in their own abilities and acknowledge the expertise of others. Those who achieve personal mastery are not threatened by opposing views or strong opinions. They are proud of their strengths, accept their weaknesses and are open to improvement.

“Mental models” – Organizational growth requires that individuals examine their “assumptions and generalizations.” People view the world through mental models, interpretations of events and behaviors that comprise their view of reality. They must be willing to question those models and accept new ones.

“Building a shared vision” – Your CEO’s fantastic ideas are useless if he or she is unable to convince others to join in the adventure. A shared vision creates tremendous power and momentum. Employees united in pursuit of a common goal often succeed.

“Team learning” – Team learning thrives in an open environment. Willingness to engage in dialogue is the first step in moving a group toward a shared objective. Individuals should strive to openly discuss sensitive or controversial issues without launching into personal attacks.

Genuine collaboration unites all facets of an organization.

Visual representation enhances communication.

“It is ultimately the combination of a vision and a need that fuels innovation.”



The Lean Machine. How Harley-Davidson Drove Top-Line Growth and Profitability with Revolutionary Lean Product Development.
Dantar P. Oosterwal
Dantar P. Oosterwal was director of product development at Harley-Davidson and vice president of innovation at Sara Lee.

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