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Jim Morgan

Jim Morgan

Senior Advisor, Product and Process Development, Lean Enterprise Institute

After serving in the Navy, Jim completed a four-year apprenticeship, learning to weld, machine and fabricate one-off tools and parts for prototype and experimental vehicles. He continued his formal education, eventually earning a Ph.D. in Engineering from the University of Michigan while simultaneously working his way through various leadership positions. Later he became Vice President at start-up Troy Design and Manufacturing Company (TDM). Here he helped lead this start-up to become a successful tier-one, global automotive supplier of engineering services, prototypes, tools, and low-volume parts and assemblies.

After leaving TDM, Dr. Morgan worked for 10 years at Ford Motor Company. For his final eight years he served as Director, Global Body Exterior and SBU Engineering. In this capacity, he and his team contributed to the company’s historic product-led revitalization under then-CEO Alan Mulally.

Jim is currently Senior Advisor and founder of the Lean Product and Process Development initiative at the Lean Enterprise Institute. The LPPD initiative is building a community of practice and research to expand the application and understanding of LPPD. Together with LEI coaches and faculty, Jim works with organizations across diverse industries around the world to improve their product development capability.

Dr. Morgan’s research into product development at the University of Michigan won two Shingo Prizes for Research Excellence. He co-authored (with Dr. Jeffrey Liker) the award-winning book The Toyota Product Development System as well as several articles on product development for the Sloan Management Review, The Engineering Management Journal and other publications. He has also developed and taught graduate courses on lean manufacturing and product development.

His most recent book is Designing the Future, co-authored with Jeff Liker.

Articles by Jim Morgan
LPPD Under the Sea: Efficient Product Design with Subsea 2.0
In this excerpt from the new book Designing the Future, authors Jim Morgan and Jeff Liker share the case study of TechnipFMC's work on a new seafloor production system that realized tremendous gains through applying LPPD principles More »
An Innovative Framework for Designing Better Products and Services – and a Better Future
Because of the enormous “shadow” it casts over the entire enterprise for years, product development literally designs the future of companies, employees, customers, and suppliers. In this Q&A, product development expert Jim Morgan, co-author of Designing the Future, describes a fundamentally different – and much better – way to develop new products and services. More »
Lean Product and Process Development Group Update: Leading Companies Share and Learn from Common Challenges
The Lean Enterprise Institute recently organized a meeting of the Lean Product and Process Development Learning Group that brought together the diverse industries of sub-sea robotics, appliances, consumer electronics, automotive research, contemporary furniture, and drilling equipment. More »
Use Lean Development Principles to Avoid "Traveling Hopefully" Down the Wrong Path
Lean development is less about creating highly detailed plans based on things you can’t possibly know in the beginning of a development program (like conventional development attempts to do), and more about developing a deeper and shared understanding of the work to be done and increasing fidelity as you close knowledge gaps over time. More »
Toyota the Disrupter
Toyota may not be the first company you think of for disruptive product and process development, but perhaps they should be, argues Jim Morgan. The tools and practices that Toyota uses have been adapted and applied successfully by companies large and small, in a wide variety of industries and in places all over the world. More »
Fresh Eyes Bring Lean Problems into Clarity
“Fresh eyes” reviews are an indispensible part of developing new value. It’s amazing what you can learn from the input of a knowledgable outsider, because developers are often so close to the work for so long that they can miss some obvious opportunities. More »
The Formula for a Successful Management System: LB * OS = MS
In order to reap the benefits of an effective management system it is important that the operating system and leadership behaviors be aligned and consistent, argues Jim Morgan. More »
The Road to Production Hell is Paved with Lack of LPPD
The real work of companies like Tesla who face stupendous challenges in launching a product should have happened long before production commenced, says Jim Morgan, noting that the time for urgency, the time for bringing your sleeping bag to work is during development – not in production. More »
Master the Meaning of "Giri"
"Giri" represents the profound obligation of the student has toward their teacher, the apprentice to the journeyman or the child to the parent, writes Jim Morgan. He thanks his own mentors and emphasizes the obligation that comes with the deep understanding that whatever you have accomplished in life, you have not really done on their own. More »
You Can't Manage a Secret
How did the obeya management system come to be at Toyota? How has it been refined since its beginning as a means of organizing research for the Toyota engineers developing the Prius? And how can we get the most out of our own obeyas? Jim Morgan answers these questions and more in his latest LPPD eletter. More »
When Lean Gets Personal
Lean is not simply about making things better; Jim Morgan shares how his experience with lean healthcare taught him how lean helps make people better. More »
Focus Your Operating System To Bring Your Strategy to Life
A strategy can just turn into wallpaper if you don't have the right systems in place to support it. Jim Morgan has seen this happen many times, and now explains how to avoid the problem, based on his experiences working with Alan Mulally at Ford Motor Company during the Great Recession. More »
Orchestrating Your Product Development Process with Milestones
"Effective milestones are an important part of a company’s development process, especially in today’s era of team-based sprints and stand-ups," writes Jim Morgan. "Yet many companies struggle to successfully create and employ milestones; and some don’t even understand their relevance beyond updating senior leadership.  " Read more. More »
The Crucible of Innovation
Innovation is key to a successful successful development project, we always read. But innovation is a fickle term that gets tossed around like a coin. Jim Morgan prefers putting his faith in design reviews to serve as his projects' heartbeat - read more to learn about design reviews and what you can do to get the most value out of them. More »
More than a New Product – A New Way of Thinking
"Successful entrepreneurs, whether they are lone figures toiling in garages or supporting new work at major companies, are rightly celebrated for creating hit products," says Jim Morgan. "But what if there were something better, much better than creating a product in isolation?" Read more. More »
The Importance of Embracing Development Conflict
Conflict is something almost all professionals have been told to avoid at all costs. Jim Morgan begs to differ. "Whenever I encounter someone using this limiting form of binary thinking," he writes, "I remind them that those who can embrace conflict find it to be a huge source of opportunity.  " Read more. More »
Creating New Value and a Lesson in Fundamentals
After a recent trip to Toyota's headquarters in Japan, Jim Morgan made an epiphany about the Toyota Production System and the fundamentals at its core. His epiphany holds value for any business professional, especially those involved in lean product and process development. Read more. More »
Put Your People at The Center of Your Development System
"It is your people that provide the skills, energy and creativity," writes Jim Morgan. "They are the single most important element of great product development systems. They drive the system.  " Read more. More »
Three Core Capabilities in Any Lean Product and Process Development System
"Good development leaders work in earnest to create a 'safe culture' for people to share issues. Working to [drive out fear] is both important and necessary," writes Jim Morgan. "But it is not nearly sufficient for identifying and eliminating technical issues at the optimal time in a development program.  " Read more. More »
The Joy of Lean Innovation: A Case Study of Menlo Innovations
Richard Sheridan and James Goebel of Menlo Innovations set out to create a joyful enterprise, one that they, their team, and their customers would love. Nevertheless, Menlo Innovations’ practices are grounded in the central principles of product and process development. Read more. More »
Lean Product and Process Development – Stories from the Field
Jim Morgan shares stories of his field work and research for LPPD at LEI. More »
TPS 2.0?
Jim Morgan and Jeffrey Liker chime in on Toyota's announcement of their TNGA program (Toyota New Global Architecture). "The impetus for TNGA is not the recall crisis," they say, "but rather Toyota’s history, with a push added by the Great Recession.  .. Toyota is constantly working on the next generation of fundamental product and process innovations and occasionally we get a snapshot.  " Read more. More »
From Victim to Partner: The Evolution of a Manufacturing Development System
"Excellence in product development is not 'an engineering thing'; it is an enterprise thing," writes Jim Morgan. And it's helpful to think about manufacturing’s role in PD as something that evolves over time through four general stages until manufacturing becomes a fully participating partner. "Few companies evolve through all stages on their own.  .. " Read more. More »
Pi-Day, Robots, and the Joy of Making Things
"Pi is a symbol that is easily recognized and fun to celebrate once a year when it falls on its calendar equivalent of 3/14," writes Jim and Mary Morgan. "Wouldn’t it be wonderful if a company could be recognized as a symbol of lean product and process development excellence and celebrated for its existence at least once per year as well?" More »
Leave Your Ego at the Door
Jim Morgan reflects on what he's learned from Alan Mulally (CEO of Ford Motor Company 2006-2014)--lessons like the importance of providing people with context, always working on a better plan, and the “magic” of working together. Read more. More »
The Relentless Pursuit of Perfection
"I began to notice that there was a sharp contrast between well-made, crafted products and poorly made ones, and an even greater distinction between the people who made them," writes Jim Morgan. "I immediately and instinctively knew which one I wanted to make, and be.  " More »
Product Focus = Customer Focus
"Customer-defined value creation is the first principle of lean thinking.  .. But how do you know your hard work will deliver a product your customer actually values and will buy?" Jim Morgan, former product/process development executive at Ford (and co-author of The Toyota Product Development System) tells us how to build "insanely good products.  " More »
The Faster We Go, the Behind-er We Get
Speed to market is not just about doing things faster. It’s about taking the time to do things more intentionally. Jim Morgan, former product/process development executive at Ford (and co-author of The Toyota Product Development System), shares the key questions you need to ask yourself if you're truly interested in shortening your product development lead times. More »
Your Product Isn't Everything, It's the Only Thing
Jim Morgan, former product/process development executive at Ford (and co-author of The Toyota Product Development System), reflects on what should really matter to you and your business and why. More »
Books by Jim Morgan
Designing the Future Designing the Future
Morgan and Liker go beyond broad generalizations on how to “be innovative” and dig deeper into the theoretical bedrock and concrete development practices that are generating exceptional results at pioneering LPPD companies. Examples in the book show specifically how companies are redesigning product development systems to consistently design and deliver a progression of market-leading products and services.    More »