What is Lean Project Management (LPM)?

Lean project management is focused on delivering manufacturing projects with less waste and more value. This is achieved by eliminating waste from the value stream in the lean manufacturing processes by a lean project manager.

To work, lean project management relies on

Toyota developed lean manufacturing, and that’s why the words used to describe waste (muda), overburden waste (muri), and waste resulting from uneven workloads (mura) are Japanese.

What are the benefits of being a Lean Project Manager?

The Toyota Production System, which was introduced in the early 1990s, allowed the automobile company to increase the value of its products for customers. The proof is in the pudding: the small automaker (then) has grown to be one of the biggest in the world. Lean manufacturing was not a term used until the 1990s. However, its benefits were obvious. Here are a few:

  • Visibility of the manufacturing process
  • Team empowerment, more control, and better decision-making
  • Increases productivity and morale
  • Alternative ways to deliver your products
  • Projects are completed faster due to the fact that fewer issues need to be addressed
  • Profits increase as value is added to the product and waste is minimized
  • Customer satisfaction can be increased

Companies can invest more in their workers, equipment, and tools as they reap the benefits. The snowball effect creates even more value while reducing waste in the production system. This is a win-win scenario in the best sense of business.

The definition of a lean project

Lean is a continuous improvement process that was originally developed for manufacturing.

It is flexible and will change when needed. The goal is to deliver value to customers and stakeholders. This applies whether you are manufacturing a car, or developing an app.

Lean is unique in that it uses the five principles of project management. It’s important to identify the five principles of lean and then apply them to the project.

What does a lean project manager do?
What does a lean project manager do?

5 Lean Principles

Let’s define five lean principles. The Lean Enterprises Institute codified these principles in 1997. They have been around since the 1970s.

  1. value is determined by the customer, client, or stakeholder. The value of a deliverable can be defined by its quality, timeliness, or price – though it is likely to include all three. You need to know what you want and what your expectations are.
  2. Value Stream – Once you have determined the value of your project, it is time to map out all the steps in your manufacturing cycle. This sequence of steps in lean management is called a value stream. Identify all the actions that are required to be performed in the project. This includes design, procurement, and production, as well as HR, administration, and others. This value stream map can be drawn on a single page to show the flow of resources.
  3. Continuous Flow: No bottlenecks should be created or production interrupted. LEI says, “Make sure that all value stream steps are performed in a tight sequence to ensure that the product or services will flow continuously towards the customer.” This often requires the use of cross-functional teams, but it results in increased productivity.
  4. Pull System The customer, client, or stakeholder can “pull” the product from the project if needed. The improvements made in the previous step will lead to a faster time-to-market. Pull systems are advantageous because they do not require warehousing and stockpiling. This saves the business money that they can pass on to their clients.
  5. Perfection Spreading the philosophy of your entire business is the final step. Continuous improvement is the core of Lean. Everyone in the company must strive to improve themselves and their processes. It can take several passes to find the real value and reduce waste.

What is Lean Project Management All About?

Projects do not happen in neat, sequential order. Project managers will be responsible for a variety of projects. Portfolios are a collection of projects. Programs are a group of related projects. Lean approaches can be used for these projects as well.

When managing a program, you can apply the five lean management principles. You can find waste in your projects by looking at them through the lens of lean management. You can then identify the value of the project and share resources in order to make it flow more smoothly.

Lean program management is another example of the 5th lean principle. Lean principles will also help with a program if they help with a project. Continuous improvement is about extending the reach of lean principles and incorporating them into all aspects of your company.

How Does Lean Project Management Work?

The focus of lean process thinking is on the customer’s needs. The customer is the one who determines whether your process adds value. On the basis of that, you map out the value stream for the process and determine the pull-based flows. Improvement opportunities are identified and implemented throughout the project lifecycle to ensure continuous process growth and optimization.

Step 1: Focus your efforts on the value that you offer to customers

You want to achieve value in addition to Lean objectives. Value can only be determined by the customer. Who is the client? Who is the customer? It can be argued that it could either:

  • The C-suite executive, shareholders, or investors who want to deliver the product in a sustainable, controlled, and profitable manner.
  • It is the end-user or customer who pays for the service, and whose quality will directly impact it.

Toyota’s consistently good product quality rewarded with high customer retention is an example of how the Lean process of customer-value-oriented processes has been successful.

Step 2: Visualize your value stream

Two processes are to be considered in the example above of two customers with two value streams. The first would be the project management process, which results in the delivery of the website within budget and on time. The second process is to create an online health shop that will be online after the project has been completed.

It would be necessary to map out a separate Value Stream for each process. To ensure maximum waste minimization and the highest quality of delivery, a continuous improvement system would be needed.

Kanban boards are a common tool used by Lean project managers. Kanban allows anyone to see the project status at any given time. Gemba is used by both Kanban and Lean. It’s much better to be able to check the project status yourself than relying on a report which can be faked and takes hours to finish.

Step 3: Increase the process throughput

Lean project managers must keep track of cycle times and throughput values, just as a Lean manufacturing system does. Lean project managers aim to deliver the product as quickly as they can. The project team will look for ways to reduce waste and improve speed at the end of every Plan, Do, Check, Act (PDCA) cycle. This will allow them to deliver the next features to their client more efficiently.

Step 4: Convert from push to Pull services

In traditional manufacturing, orders were pushed on to the manufacturer when they arrived. This forced them to catch up. Lean managers make sure that customers are doing the work for them – signaling demand. Open communication is maintained with customers to ensure they have the knowledge needed to provide the functionality required. It is important to know the process takt times and customer behavior.

Limiting the work in progress is an integral part of Lean Project Management. It is important to deliver only what the client needs and does so quickly. Lean projects are much shorter than traditional ones. For example, many companies deploy to production every day.

Traditional project buffers allow extra time for risks like scheduling and cost overruns. Lean project management only uses buffer stages to protect WIP constraints or critical chains of the project, the parts that take the longest to finish.

Step 5: Improve continuously

Lessons learned are part of the project closure in traditional project management. Lessons learned can be useful for future projects but it does not allow you to improve on completed work.

Lean project management aims to achieve continual improvements. Kaizen Blitz is a four- or five-day event where relevant stakeholders come together to find the root cause of a problem and the solution there and then.

What does a lean project manager do?
What does a lean project manager do?

Agile vs. Lean project management

Agile and Lean are sometimes used interchangeably. This is harmless, but not always correct. Lean and Agile both describe a method of working that is value-oriented, but the methods they suggest to achieve this are different. A key difference is the scale at which these two approaches are implemented in an organization.

Lean is a method that originated from manufacturing practices. It’s a more systematic approach to streamlining the way an organization generates value.

Agile is a software engineering-based methodology that focuses on high-value production quickly. It does this by focusing on team collaboration and applying short iterations.

Agile software development was used to organize a sprint project for a health store’s website. Sitting down with the owner of the store to discuss how to provide the best experience for his clients over the long term is a completely different activity. One would require a large-scale business skill set and Lean strategies.

The bottom line, both Lean and Agile can help teams and businesses to deliver better quality to customers. It’s not uncommon for companies to use both methods to get the best results.

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