Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
Project management is the process of planning, organizing, and managing resources to achieve specific goals and objectives. Lean project management is a methodology that emphasizes the importance of continuous improvement and eliminating waste throughout the project management process. In this article, we will explore why lean project management is good project management, how it can benefit organizations of all sizes, and why you need just a little bit more.
Table of contents
Lean methodologies are useful as a project framework
There are six primary elements to lean methodologies that support its value as a project management framework. It is so useful, in fact, we think that the principles should be included as a hybrid approach to other forms of project management practices. I’ll touch more on this below.
Create Customer Value
Firstly, lean project management (lean pm) emphasizes the importance of customer value. By focusing on what the customer wants and needs, lean project management ensures that the project outcome is aligned with customer expectations. This approach helps to increase customer satisfaction and can lead to increased revenue for the organization.
You will frequently see “talk to your customers” mentioned throughout product development, startup culture, and general business experiences. It’s a fundamental concept to being successful — the idea being that, if no one wants to use (or pay for) your product, then what are you building for? This concept also moves into the next topic:
Get rid of waste
Secondly, lean PM promotes the elimination of waste. Waste can occur in various forms, such as overproduction, defects, over-processing, waiting, inventory, motion, and unused talent.
Creating value for customers falls into this category because if you’ve built for what they need, tested and validated appropriately, then you’ve eliminated the waste that occurs by spending time, dollars, and brain power on things that no one wants. It does extend beyond this, however, as waste comes from many areas (as noted above).
It is also worth calling out that unused talent is often an under appreciated source of waste — if we aren’t keeping a good awareness of the team members and their skills during a project, we may be missing out on opportunities to 1. create a better work culture and team environment but 2. also improve the workflow overall.
By eliminating waste, lean project management can reduce project costs, increase efficiency, and improve overall project quality.
Continuously work towards improving
Thirdly, lean project management puts an emphasis on continuous improvement. In order to create value, eliminate waste, you need to take regular assessment of the project status, the resources, the process, and evaluate — then making adjustments. This iterative approach to project work can help create a growth driven feedback loop; hopefully leading to increased productivity, better project outcomes, and a more engaged team.
You can’t do it without teamwork
Fourthly, lean project management promotes teamwork and collaboration. By involving team members in the project management process, lean PM can foster a culture of collaboration; which can lead to better problem-solving, increased creativity, and better communication.
Gallup research supports that employee engagement has been dropping now with some consistency. Any chance that we can get to infuse opportunity, vision, and collaboration into our team environments is a win.
Stay flexible and adaptable to changing environments
Fifthly, lean project management encourages flexibility and adaptability. In today’s fast-paced business environment, demands can change rapidly. It’s 2023 and many of us are feeling the impact of the lay-off, economic climate and are experiencing just how quickly things shift. While there were many things that have contributed to the state of current affairs, it begs to question how much of it could have been avoided by adapting and making changes earlier.
Ultimately, embracing flexibility and adaptability, lean project management can help organizations to stay agile, respond to the changes occurring, and be on alert as the demand arises.
Why Lean project management works and why you need a little more
Lean PM works and has been popularized in many areas — coming from manufacturing, though, the process can feel a bit manufactured for human beings. As a general rule, it can be challenging for people to blend the steps in lean into everything they do or, at times, things are simply moving too quickly.
Project management processes should be thought of as more of, “the way in which we get from point A to point B” and this is something that many of us will do some variation of naturally. We can plan a party, an activity, a trip. We can execute the tasks. When things become “projects,” it’s because the complexity has grown, due to either team size or resources, to a point where we need to manage expectations, find consistency, build alignment and keep the path.
Good project management requires a balanced approach
For us, here at Leantime, we recognize that project management practices need to be individual to the team while maintaining the elements of best practices — and we recognize that, among all the theories that exist, many of them all hold a piece of what balance should look like.
In order to optimize for that, we looked at lean, agile, and design thinking and found a blend of the concepts and introduced them to our open source project management tool. Lean allows us to follow the principles mentioned above. Agile includes a strong emphasis and focus on remaining limber — creating value while shipping that value in frequent intervals of time.
Lastly, design thinking brings back the human iterative approach (empathy focused) that we need to round out the more mechanical elements of a process. While agile and lean project management tends to view the world in a linear fashion, quite simply, the world does not work that way. Design thinking emphasizes the more circular nature of human tendency and acknowledges that we may need to move in and out of a phase in other order.
In summary, Lean methodologies are good but…
In conclusion, lean project management is good project management because it focuses on key elements of successful project work: customer value, eliminates waste, promotes continuous improvement, fosters teamwork and collaboration, encourages flexibility and adaptability, and helps organizations to achieve their sustainability goals. By adopting a lean project management approach, organizations can improve project outcomes, increase efficiency, and reduce costs, making it a valuable tool for any organization looking to improve its project management process. However, project management needs a balanced approach and lean project management would still benefit from being rounded out by other approaches and that is why we focus on three primary project management frameworks here: lean project management, agile software development, and design thinking.
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