Lean Project Management and What It Can Mean for Your Next Project


As you may know, Lean Project Management is not a new concept. Lean methods have been used since the 1980s in IT and project management. To put it simply, Lean concepts are used to prevent waste. When used in a project management context, it operates on the main principle of delivering more value with less waste.

Waste in Lean Project Management can be defined as the extra time, labor, and materials that do not add value to the project. Examples of this could be lengthy, unproductive status meetings or creating documentation for a project that is never used. The goals of Lean Project Management are quite simple – improve quality, eliminate waste, reduce lead time, reduce total costs while completing a project on time and within budget, and meeting performance requirements.

You can look at it like a streamlined approach to project management. Think of all the time that could be spent productively working instead of wasting time and effort on small tasks that are not pertinent to the success of the project. By adopting this style of project management, you will create a continuous stream for each project that delivers customer value with the least waste of resources within the shortest time possible.

In my opinion, there isn’t a good reason not to adopt Lean Project Management. You are essentially striving to eliminate most of the negative attributes associated with working on any project – wasted time, money, and resources.

So how do you implement this kind of project management?

There are five steps (as defined by James Womack and Daniel Jones, a couple experts on Lean Thinking) that outline the Lean project management.

1. Identify value – at the beginning of a project, take the time to break down the project and identify what elements are valuable and which can be eliminated.

2. Map the value stream – review the teams throughout the company alongside the project outline to map out the teams that are essential to the success of the project. This will help prevent bottlenecks.

3. Create flow – break out the small manageable tasks and measure everything along the way to see how teams and individuals perform best in certain situations. You will then know how to assign tasks based on everyone’s strengths.

4. Establish pull – do not commit to one course of action until all participants in the project have agreed to a list of desired outcomes.

5. Seek perfection – empower your teams with decision-making responsibilities and accountability. Continually promote improvements and communicate what your teams can learn from successful and failed projects.

When you begin your next project, try to follow these five steps to Lean project management success. Lean project management cuts out the excess that slows a project down and creates stress, subsequently creating a lack of productivity. Adopting Lean project management and following these steps will create a seamless flow which will positively impact not only your business, but also the people that you work with.