Sustainability is key when seeking to scale up or improve a business. However, to achieve sustainability, companies must strive to continuously improve their project workflows and eliminate waste whenever possible. Lean project management aims to accomplish just that.
Before discussing specifics of lean project management, we must first understand what lean methodology is and what it entails. Lean is a business philosophy founded on two pillars: continuous improvement and respect for people.
With lean project management, businesses utilize lean principles to guide the management of each phase of a project lifecycle to optimize workflows, provide better-quality products or services to customers, and ultimately improve overall company performance.
In this article, we will introduce you to the lean project management methodology, how it works, and why it’s important. You can then use this understanding of lean project management to transform the way your organization operates for the better.
What is lean project management and how does it work?
Lean project management is a highly successful project management methodology that applies lean principles to projects within an organization. It requires project teams to center all efforts on providing value to customers and eliminating waste.
The five principles of lean serve as a guide for all project teams within your organization. These principles ensure that both continuous improvement and respect for people are at the core of all activities that transpire within a project’s lifecycle. Over time, this constant effort to improve individual project workflows will create a more flexible organization that can address customer requirements in a much more efficient manner.
Lean project management starts with lean thinking. Lean thinking requires businesses to focus on the value their products will bring to customers. Once that value has been identified, businesses can then apply the five core principles throughout the project lifecycle to identify opportunities for improvement and optimize or eliminate waste activities.
The five core principles of lean
In lean project management, there are five core principles that must be applied over the duration of a project lifecycle to eliminate waste and aid continuous improvement:
Identify value from your customers. Identifying value requires businesses to deliver the products/services that customers need instead of what they asked for. To do so, businesses should closely examine their customer base and why they choose a particular company’s products/services over the competition.
Customer information can be found through web analytics, social media campaigns, and customer surveys. At the end of this process, businesses will discover exactly what their customers are looking for, how they would like to receive products/services, and how much they are willing to pay for what a business offers.
Map the value stream. Value stream mapping is a lean management technique that enables businesses to visualize, analyze, and improve each phase of the product delivery workflow. Project team leaders diagram each step involved in the material and information flow necessary to bring a product from order to delivery. This workflow visualization technique is designed to highlight waste activities within a product life cycle so that project teams can eliminate it and optimize operations.
Value stream mapping requires project teams to create a current state map that details the current condition of a value stream’s material and information flow. Next, the project team draws a future state map that details how information and materials should flow through the value stream. Leaders can utilize a visualization tool like MindManager® to clearly map out each stage of the product life cycle, meeting with the project team to ensure every necessary step is included.
Create a continuous workflow. Once the specific customer value(s) has been successfully identified, mapped to each stage of the product lifecycle, and waste activities have been determined,; you can now begin to eliminate waste within your workflows. This stage of lean project management requires businesses to assess both the individual stages of production and the product lifecycle as a whole, to increase the value offered to customers and eliminate operational waste.
Continuous flow is a lean management technique that enables project teams to move products/services through the production process from start to finish. Traditional project management methodologies often use the batch and queue technique to move larger groups of parts through the production process as a unit. A continuous workflow enables organizations to improve delivery times, deliver higher quality products, and significantly reduce production costs. At the end of this stage, project teams will have eliminated waste and optimized activities so that all project workflows operate more smoothly.
Create a pull system. A pull system is a method of production control that strives to eliminate overproduction by only starting the production process when there is a customer demand for it. In lean project management, pull systems are utilized because they enable continuous workflows.
By directing available resources to immediate needs, pull systems ensure that all operational processes flow efficiently and avoid any unnecessary tasks. In addition to aiding continuous workflows, pull systems also allow products/services to be delivered in smaller quantities, making it easier for project teams to identify and resolve quality issues. In lean project management, organizations use a pull system to make further improvements to operational workflows and save on valuable project time, costs, and resources.
Practice continuous improvement. Lean project management upholds that there is always room for improvement, no matter how optimized an organization may seem. This last guiding principle demands that companies continue to identify new ways to eliminate waste and optimize operations to stay competitive and continuously improve upon the values that their products/services offer to customers.
To aid continuous improvement, project teams should regularly elicit feedback from both employees and customers in order to find creative ways to make process improvements. Regularly collecting surveys from customers and team members, holding internal brainstorming sessions, and analyzing business data such as website analytics can help organizations identify opportunities for further workflow improvement.
Why is lean management important?
Lean management is so effective because it helps organizations become more efficient and adaptable to change, which is the hallmark of a successful business.
A common misconception about lean management is that it is only useful when applied to businesses that are struggling with low economic growth. However, many successful companies use this project management methodology to strengthen their business practices and stay competitive in their respective markets.
By practicing lean management over the duration of a project lifecycle, project teams will be able to reduce waste and better satisfy customer needs. The elimination of waste activitiesenables employees to be more productive, helping project managers cut manpower costs. By focusing on satisfying customer needs, companies can increase the quality of the products/services they offer, which results in increased customer satisfaction and retention rates.
Lean management also fosters mutual respect and favors daily improvements, encouraging employees to work with management to solve workflow inefficiencies. This can lead to improvements within workplace culture, increasing employee morale.
All in all, lean management is an important concept for businesses to understand due to its ability to transform the way companies operate for the better, regardless of their current financial standing.
Improve your lean project management practices with MindManager
Lean management relies on visualization tools to manage and optimize key workflows. Project teams must be able to efficiently visualize each phase of a project lifecycle and identify bottlenecks if they intend to improve company operations and deliver quality products/services that satisfy customer needs.
MindManager offers a wide variety of customizable visual tools designed to help project teams enhance their collaborative efforts. Use MindManager to create Kanban boards, PDCA cycles, process control charts, and other lean project management diagrams that help project teams visualize process and concepts, bring attention and react to irregularities, enforce standards, and share information.