Ever wonder why projects fail? We already know the causes of failure but we continue to make the same mistakes… If you are passionate about transformation, technology, people and project management, this article is just for you. We are going to address the main considerations of lean project management so that you can start implementing it in your organization.
In a context of digital transformation where it is very difficult to separate processes from people and technology, the power of an organization lies in the ability of employees to reinvent themselves, both at the leadership and technical levels. Lean Project Management isn’t just a framework, but a management philosophy that allows you to see beyond the day-to-day, focusing on the business variables that matter most to project stakeholders.
Although it originated in manufacturing environments –in fact, the methodology was born in 1920 with the mass production of Henry Ford–, Lean can be useful in projects of any kind and is increasingly being implemented in technology companies.
First things first: What is a project?
The Project Management Institute tells us that a project is a temporary endeavor that is incurred to create a one-of-a-kind product or service. In other words, we can understand a project as an accumulation of operations specifically designed and combined to achieve a particular objective. For this, a pre-established scope and timing must be set, and human, material, financial and economic resources are used.
The project is one of a kind, it seeks a significant change that creates value and enhances differentiation, in addition to having a defined duration and a time limit. We should not confuse it with the daily operation of an organization. This latter one is repetitive; the same tasks are always developed to obtain a result, so the duration could be indefinite.
In order to correctly approach a project, it is essential to define the following aspects:
Let’s now talk about what’s important: What is Lean Project Management?
Lean, as a management philosophy, follows the objective of systematically eliminate everything that doesn’t add value to the organization, and therefore to its projects. The purpose is for organizations to be more agile and competitive by increasing their efficiency and reducing associated costs. It also focuses on achieving an effective satisfaction of market demands with low inventory levels.
As key learnings of Lean project management, the following stand out:
- The customer defines the concept of “value” since the company focuses on satisfying their specific needs.
- Tolerance to waste (of resources, financial, time, etc.) must be zero.
A Lean project is supported by the following stages:
Step 1. Planning. The purpose of this first stage is to confirm the general objectives and focus of the project. Key activities in this phase include:
- Define the objectives and expected results, as well as the deliverables of each stage.
- Identify delivery dates and deadlines.
- Document and agree on the project plan, considering the available resources.
- Map risks and specifically weight those of high impact, identifying mitigating measures.
A fundamental tool for the planning stage is Value Stream Maping. It is a graphic technique that let’s you visualize a whole process, allowing you to fully understand the work flow, both at the information and material levels. With this technique, the activities that do not add value to the process are identified in order to try to eliminate them.
Step 2: Organization. The objective of this phase is to know what processes must be implemented to comply with the project planning. Key activities in this phase include:
- Identify workflows, considering key events and key interdependencies.
- Organize available resources and assign responsibilities based on them.
- Define quality management and control procedures to be applied in the execution stage.
- Establish project monitoring mechanisms in line with the defined governance model.
The key tool for this stage is the Work Breakdown Structure. It is a deliverable-oriented grouping of project elements that organizes and defines the total scope of the initiative.
Step 3: Execution and Control. In this phase we focus on implementing the plan. We seek to monitor actual progress and compare it with the plan, correcting deviations when necessary. The key activities to highlight are:
- Implement the approved and agreed plan.
- Keep the team and stakeholders informed.
- Correct deviations rapidly.
- Monitor progress and manage costs, optimizing the budget.
At this stage, Cause-Effect Analysis (aka Ishikawa’s Fishbone) is very useful. This is a technique in which all possible reasons for a specific problem are brainstormed and structured according to a cause-and-effect graph, allowing the identification of potential improvement opportunities to optimize operations.
Step 4: Closure and Retrospective. In this last stage, the performance obtained through the project management process is evaluated. This will make it possible to capitalize on lessons learned about the project and capture the knowledge, to take advantage of it in the future. It is an instance of reflection, learning and recording of the knowledge generated.
Now you know the different instances of the Lean Project Management methodology. At Huenei we structure our projects and work processes focusing on both agile and Lean methodologies. We invite you to review our Dedicated Teams, Staff Augmentation and Turnkey Projects services to learn more about our way of working.