“Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.”
Vincent Van Gogh
At its core, lean project management is about delivering greater value while minimizing waste. In that sense, this approach will help you improve quality while decreasing the cost of production — but where do you begin?
If your goal is to improve your team’s lean project management, resulting in greater efficiency and productivity, you need to take a number of key steps. Here’s how to get started.
Make Your Projects Run More Efficiently and Deliver Better Results Through Lean Project Management
Lean is a business philosophy that first began within the manufacturing industry. The goal was to decrease costs and lead time while yielding greater quality. Derived from the Toyota Production System, this philosophy is applied to all business processes.
Once Toyota successfully maximized outputs while reducing waste, Lean principles were applied to many business disciplines; and in terms of project management, Lean principles help managers improve key variables. For example, just some of the benefits associated with Lean principles include:
- Greater quality assurance and customer satisfaction
- Improved team collaboration
- Lower costs, as well as reduced waste
How to Apply Lean Project Management Methodology
Once you understand the core principles and benefits associated with lean project management, it will be time to apply what you’ve learned. To do so, take the following steps.
Step One: Identify customer value
When developing any project, the first step is to consider the perspective and needs of the customer. In that sense, you should focus on what the customer needs and when. Quality and price expectations are important to consider here, particularly in terms of value and waste reduction. You should strive to eliminate bottlenecks in the project process, focusing on speed while minimizing waste. You’ll want to remain particularly mindful of wasted effort, inconsistency, and overcommitment issues.
Step Two: Create a value plan
Whenever you’re about to tackle a new project, it’s important to consider the initial idea, visualizing your end goal. In doing so, you will become more mindful of the steps in between. That way, you can better understand which steps add value and which do not. For example, when designers create prototypes, this step typically adds value.
The same is true when building your design system, allowing you to eliminate inconsistencies while standardizing all ongoing processes. Design systems bring order to chaos, boosting efficiency and consistency. As a result, companies are able to create at scale. In contrast, meeting with the entire design team daily to share updates may not add a significant amount of value. Remember to think of the customer. While analyzing each step, ask yourself, does this step add value to the customer?
Step Three: Eliminate activities that don’t add value
This step is all about reducing waste. The ultimate goal here is for your team to end up working on activities that add value, eliminating all those that are non-value adding. Depending on the scope of your project, this may be easier said than done. However, even small improvements can make a significant difference when aiming to become Lean.
Step Four: Continue to improve
It’s important to note that the step above is not a one-time job. To be an efficient, successful Lean project team, you need to continuously review ongoing activities to eliminate and reduce as much waste as possible. It’s also important to empower your team so that everyone feels comfortable challenging inefficient activities.
How to Identify Waste Activities
While you may want to improve your team’s lean project management for a number of reasons, eliminating waste is at the core of this philosophy and is addressed by three Japanese concepts, known as:
- Muda — This includes any activity that consumes resources without creating value. In relation to project management, this is often seen when resources are utilized without any sense of meaningful output. That is why you need to create a well-defined end-to-end project plan. Work closely with your team so that each individual understands what they’re responsible for.
- Mura — This focuses on reducing unevenness without your team. The goal here is to maintain balanced progress while identifying risks in your work schedule. Within project management, Mura often evolves due to changing priorities, dependencies, poor risk management, and a lack of clarity — all of which can be avoided.
- Muri — This involves the concept of being overburdened, relating to both humans and machines. When required to work at a higher pace, for longer, this can lead to low-quality output. To avoid this, establish clear boundaries regarding work-life balance and encourage breaks when needed.
Implement Lean Six Sigma (DMEDI)
DMEDI is a structured, measurable, and highly proactive method. The purpose of this approach is to identify issues upfront so that you can prevent waste in terms of your time and resources. The five phases of this method include:
These phases essentially act as a blueprint when setting up a project.
So, whether your goal is to reduce the number of useless activities or would like to address overburdened team members, lean project management will help you reduce wasted efforts and become more productive. It’s a win-win!
Want to learn more? Check out the following resources:
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