Academic journal article Annals of Business Administrative Science

Followers of Harvard Study: A Review of Product Development Research 1990s-2000s

Academic journal article Annals of Business Administrative Science

Followers of Harvard Study: A Review of Product Development Research 1990s-2000s

Article excerpt

Abstract: A diversification of research approaches became apparent in the field of product development management in the 1990s, based on a monumental study by Clark and Fujimoto (1991) (the so-called "Harvard Study"). The following five new research approaches then came into play. The "product-industry based approach," sought to clarify effective product development management by focusing on the characteristics of products and industry. The "multi-project approach" analyzed multiple projects over single projects. The "dynamic approach" focused on the dynamic aspects of product development from the long-term perspective. The "problem-solving approach" regarded product development as a problem-solving process. The "organizational capability approach" sought to elucidate organizational capabilities that contribute to high performance in product development.

Keywords: literature review, product development, problem solving, organizational capability

1. Introduction

A diversification of research approaches became apparent in the field of product development management in the 1990s, based on a monumental empirical research on the automotive industry by Clark and Fujimoto (1991), the so-called "Harvard Study".

Since the 1960s, when the field of product development research established, it has been redirecting its focus of research approach in approximately every decade. The "grand approach" of the 1960s gave way to the "focus approach" of the late 1970s, which ushered in the "process approach" of the late 1980s (Kuwashima, 2012). In the 1990s, the "process approach," established by Clark and Fujimoto (1991), laid the foundation for the following five new research approaches,1 which attempted to overcome the limitations of Clark and Fujimoto (1991) and develop the process approach.2

(1) Product-industry based approach

(2) Multi-project approach

(3) Dynamic approach

(4) Problem-solving approach

(5) Organizational capability approach

In fact, Clark and Fujimoto (1991) address the following three limitations (distinguishing characteristics).

a) Single product (industry) analysis

b) Single project unit of analysis

c) Static cross-section analysis

Research approaches (1)-(3), mentioned above, appeared as attempts to overcome the limitations a)-c).3

Problem-solving approach adopts a "problem-solving" perspective as a framework for analyzing product development management. Throughout the history of product development research, it was common to regard product development as a problem-solving process; however, after Clark and Fujimoto (1991) a "problem-solving model" has explicitly been used as a framework for analysis.

Organizational capability approach appeared in proximity to strategic management, seeking to clarify the organizational capabilities and resources that would contribute to high product development performance. Much of the existing strategic management research on organizational capabilities and resource-based view (RBV) was conceptual; gaining insight from Clark and Fujimoto's (1991) precise measurement of organizational capabilities and performances, many researchers regarded product development as suitable a field for testing their theoretical hypotheses.

Focusing on the five approaches, this paper reviews product development management research from the 1990s to the 2000s.

2. Product-Industry Based Approach

The first research approach based on Clark and Fujimoto (1991), appearing in the 1990s, was the "product-industry based approach." This approach aimed at discovering effective product development patterns and considered the characteristics of products and industry. The main concern of this approach is clarifying whether effective product development patterns, such as overlapping problem solving or the heavy-weight product manager (HWPM), identified by Clark and Fujimoto (1991) in the automotive industry, can be applied to other products or industries (e. …

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