Book Review: The Principles of Product Development Flow by Donald G. Reinertsen

Traditional product development approach does not work well in a complex, uncertain and volatile business environment.
The tendency to increase the efficiency of each step in the development process by working with big batch sizes of work items (specifications, design, test cases etc.) rather than optimizing the system as a whole results in large inventories of WIP (work-in-process) items.
Large inventories slow down the flow of work items causing queues and delays if bottle necks develop during any of the stages of the development.
This results in erratic and late delivery of the product to the market.
But hardly 15 % of the product developers know the cost of such delays.
Moreover the traditional product development encourages conformance to the plan and processes rather than exploiting the variable business conditions to one’s advantage by quickly adapting to the changed circumstances.
The mindset of centralized decision making does not help either.
Besides the economic consequences of the product development decisions are also not correctly quantified.

Donald Reinertsen, a product development consultant for over 30 years, emphasizes that only by ensuring a continuous flow of work items one can overcome these challenges of conventional product development approach.
His book The Principles of Product Development Flow – Second Generation Lean Product Development provides a comprehensive guidance on how to achieve this objective.
Reinertsen has drawn upon ideas from the fields of manufacturing, economics, queueing theory, statistics, telecommunication network, computer operating system design, control engineering and maneuver warfare and crystallized them in form of 175 principles that question the tenets of conventional product development and show a new way of developing products.
These principles are classified and discussed in his book under eight major themes – economics-based decision making; queues; variability; batch size; WIP (Work-in-process) constraints; cadence, synchronization and flow control; fast feedback and decentralized control.Guidelines to implement these principles are provided with ample examples.

A very useful and concise guide on how to develop products effectively in an economically viable way in presence of variability, this is one book that must be on the bookshelf of every product developer.
Read the reviews  about this book at, and  Goodreads.

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