Lean project management is a term that’s been making waves across industries, specialties, job titles and niches for a long time now.
The reason it’s so popular is that the lean project management philosophy has one goal: Deliver the most amount of value, with the least amount of waste.
Sure, as industries, specialties, job titles and niches change, so will the relative constraints on the success of a specific project.
A marketer might be looking to balance the skills on his team with a budget of $15,000 to spread across channels and campaigns, whereas a project manager might be balancing her team’s time dedicated to tackling the backlog against pushing new features live. Lean project managers can help bring this to fruition.
Whatever your constraints or unique business needs, lean project management is the method for ensuring quality, efficiency and consistency - all of which are lean principles.
In this post, we’ll give you an overview of the methodology and what to look for in a project management tool so you can always deliver your best.
For the last 15 years, there’s been a consistent interest in reducing project management workflows. But where did it come from and how did the concept originate?
The concept’s roots go back to the 1990s. In fact, the term ‘lean project management’ initially originated with Toyota. Yep, the car manufacturing company. Specifically, Toyota tested, developed and perfected a philosophy and practice they refer to as the Toyota Production System (TPS).
This system is meant to be a way of crafting vehicles smoothly and efficiently, in order to remove overburden and inconsistency, and eliminate waste. From within this system, the concept of lean project management emerged. Today, teams use these lean principles to reduce bottlenecks to get things done. Lean thinking is applicable to almost any portfolio of projects.
Getting into all the nitty-gritty details can be like going down a rabbit hole with no end in sight. Most of it is interesting, and if you really want to go deep into it, you should read Lean Thinking: Banish Waste and Create Wealth in Your Corporation.
But instead of paraphrasing the entire Lean Thinking book, let’s go over what’s most important. When beginning to implement lean thinking in your business, you must first understand the core principles of the lean project management methodology. The book introduces five lean principles:
Now that you have a grasp on the core principles of lean project management, you’re ready to start putting it into practice.
In order to start, there are two things you absolutely need to do:
Adopting a new project management framework (or adopting one for the first time) will be a learning curve. As the internal champion around the process, it’s up to you to help encourage everyone else to get on board. Project management soft skills come to play here.
The best way to transition is by documenting everything. The more time spent on writing down step-by-step guidelines, the more consistency you’ll create. In turn, you should be prepared to help with training and learning.
Encourage your collaborators to consistently reference process documentation and ask questions when they arise. Having daily stand-up meetings or check-ins with teams will help. Ensuring that there’s one place where all internal docs live is also important.
Remember, project management is all about continuous improvement, so don’t expect things to be perfect from the start. Give your team time to adjust and get settled into the new way of doing things.
The optimal lean project management tool will work alongside your documented processes, without making anything more complicated than it should be. When looking for a tool you want to make sure:
Waste in manufacture or construction is easy to visualize but for non-physical work like software development which does not involve a physical end-product, waste is hard to visualize. The waste concepts within lean thinking extend far beyond physical waste. Lean software developers Mary and Tom Poppendieck believe waste is stuff which doesn’t give the customers value or contribute to customer satisfaction.
Lean project managers obsess about eliminating waste. This is particularly true of the waste that arises from miscommunication and misunderstanding of the value stream.
Waste can arise within lean project management, for example; lack of customer involvement, unnecessary busy work or work done without good reason will all generate waste.
When you are planning your next task make sure to include some activity which ensures value (or customers satisfaction). Ask yourself whether this task is intended to improve customer satisfaction or merely appease internal stakeholders. There's a big difference.
Once you've confirmed a task does add customer value, make sure to document how it contributes to the value stream map. It's always a good idea to include this context when logging tasks for software development teams. This will help ensure your team is on the same page.
All in, lean project management is a solution to bloated project management frameworks. Follow the lean project management methodology. Document everything to bring your team on board. Make sure you select the right project tracking tool. When do you all this, you're sure to find success.
DoneDone was created with lean project management in mind. It's simple yet robust; our goal is to help you eliminate wasted time and resources while making it as easy as possible for you to track and complete your projects.