David G. Ullman, Ph.D.

Dr. David Ullman is the father of the Robust Decision methodology, an expert on product development, an entertaining speaker and an experienced facilitator.  His unique history of professional practice, teaching, facilitation and research enables him to balance practical experience with theory, much of it developed by him.  The breadth and depth of David’s real-world experience and education makes it possible for him to unstick complex situations, facilitate resolution, and help cross-organizational teams reach decisions and move to action.

David has a PhD in Mechanical Engineering, a Masters in Aerospace Engineering and is a certified Taguchi Expert.  He is founder of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) - Design Theory and Methodology Committee. Because of this and other contributions he has been awarded the honor of ASME Fellow.  He holds five patents for both hardware and decision support algorithms.  He is an Emeritus Professor of Mechanical Engineering Design from Oregon State University and has been a visiting Professor at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Twente University (Netherlands) and Cambridge University (UK).

He is the author of The Mechanical Design Process, a text used at many universities.  He is currently working on the 5th edition of this compendium of product design process best practices.  This text was the first to weave all the best practices into a continuous process.  To keep this text current, David is expert in most product design best practices including, Taguchi’s method of design of experiments, quality function deployment, design for six sigma, failure analysis and others.

He has founded two corporations to commercialize his ideas. The first company manufactured personal transportation products, grew to have seven digit annual sales, and became the largest manufacturer in its field.  David served as CEO over the first years of the corporation and as chairman of the board for life of the organization. The products David designed for this company won national awards.

The second corporation Ullman founded develops software, training and facilitation material around his Robust Decisions concept.  Robust Decision methods have been taught and facilitated in major Fortune 500 Corporations and have led to improved decision making across many domains.  He serves as CEO of this organization. David has been consulting for over twenty five years.

Recent experience includes:

  • Facilitated a hands-on problem-solving workshop at a Fortune 100 company. A human resources problem had gone unresolved for three years.  During the sessions the problem was reformulated, evaluated and a course of action rapidly chosen that had buy-in from the entire team. This series of sessions not only helped the organization resolve a stuck issue, it trained the participants to utilize effective methods in future problems.
  • Facilitated a government team of experts choosing the best proposal for eight digit funding.  Typically, when choosing a new technology to fund, the organization mobilizes a distributed team of domain experts.  David showed them how to cut significant cost and time from this decision-making process. 
  • Developed a decision support methodology for processing national intelligence information.  Funded internally by a major military/security supplier, this extension of Robust Decision methods offered them the first system that supports intelligence agents reaching critical decisions about national security issues while taking into account the uncertainty that clouds all intelligence work.
  • Assisted a government research laboratory in understanding why their project planning estimates were so inaccurate and suggesting methods to improve them.  This lab develops multi-million dollar satellites pushing the edges of technology.  Some of these projects come in over three times the initial budget estimates.  An effort to understand the causes and remedies of this resulted in suggestions that required fundamental system changes.  These results also led to Chapter 3 and other sections of Making Robust Decisions. 
  • Supplied software to a rocket engine manufacturer to assist them in choosing the best possible rocket engine to propose for funding.  Their proposal was successful and they won the support. 
  • Advised a CAD company on the strength and weaknesses of computer aided design offerings in preparation for the development of a new product.
  • Facilitated a team of senior managers choosing new product development directions.  From the portfolio of ideas that had been discussed, aided them in choosing which to develop with buy-in and risk awareness.
  • Advised an author on how to publish his latest book.  He had been successful using traditional publishers, but wanted to explore other options such as e-books, publish-on-demand and self-publishing.  
  • Advised a small company about which products to develop from a portfolio of ideas.  The product chosen with the process proved revolutionary.

David has taught hundreds of courses in his career, both in industry and academia:

  • David has taught the Robust Decision courses at: Hewlett Packard, Boeing, Pratt and Whitney, Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Harley Davidson.
  • David has taught product design processes to over 1000 university students and hundreds of industry professionals at Lucent, Cummins, Sequent, Comfortex, Schlumberger, Metronic, Tektronix, Mentor Graphics, Novellus, and Freightliner.

Recent papers include:

  • “OO-OO-OO!” the Sound of a Broken OODA Loop
  • Analysis of Alternatives (AoA) Based Decisions
  • Decision-Thinking in PLM
  • Five Key Decisions for Portfolio Optimization
  • Decisions of the 3rd Kind

Recent presentations include:

  • Why does it take us three weeks?
  • Building buy-in for tough decisions.
  • Making better time and cost estimates
  • Four blunders that ensure poor decisions
  • OO-OO-OO, the Sound of the Broken OODA Loop
  • How Analysis of Alternatives can Save you Time and Money


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