Are you a Lean Project Manager?

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Do you consider yourself as a lean manager? While I never profess to be a 100% lean manager, I do like to deploy / use some of the core lean values. Many of us do without fully knowing the full meaning of the term lean management. Yes, we understand lean, we understand project management, but when we combine the two terms and say ‘lean project management’, what does it actually mean? Lean project management is not some title you will earn in school, like an engineer, doctor or even a project manager. A lean manager is someone who has embraced continuous improvement, who inspires people to solve their problems and employ sustainable solutions. Does this fit you and what your vision is? Lean is the relentless pursuit of adding value for the customer, waste elimination, and continuous improvement from a standard at the point of activity by everyone, everywhere, everyday!

When we talk about lean project management, here is what we are trying to achieve:

  1. Plan based on a long-term philosophy rather than short-term financial goals:- People in your project need a sense of purpose to achieve project goals and they need to understand this vision / objective.
  2. Use the “pull” systems to remove overproduction:- How do you know when you should stop sending a shipment of products to your client? For obvious reasons, the client would call you and tell you to stop. Focus on effective communication with all stakeholders and ensure that the customer is in a situation to take (pull) what they require rather than be given (push) what they don’t want.
  3. Divide the workload evenly across your team:- Minimise waste by not overburdening stakeholders in your project. Ensure everybody has a share workload and a shared responsibility. Don’t rely on the chosen few to deliver, spread the load and trust that it can be done.
  4. Use visual controls like Kanban to highlight problem areas and reporting:- Kanban’s visual nature enables teams to communicate on work streams. All team members are on the same page throughout the project. It also standardises task queues to reduce waste and maximise customer value. Keep it visual and transparent.
  5. Develop unique people and teams to follow your company’s philosophy:- Create teams that comprise at least 4-5 people from different management tiers. Share with the team and use these teams as a means of leveraging better practice, thought sharing and ultimately knowledge transfer. Don’t believe it will happen on its own.
  6. Educate yourself and team members on key project requirements:- Project management is a continuous learning process. Educate and understand the basis and don’t be afraid to ask those questions that nobody is interested in.
  7. Make a decision based on consensus after considering all options – Sometimes a project plan does not meet expectations. To avoid such situations, follow these parameters to become a problem solver:
    • Find out what is going on (go-and-see)
    • Determine the root cause of problems
    • Consider other alternatives
    • Create consensus on the resolution
    • Use communication tools that are efficient

Are you are lean project manager? How many of these principles do you deploy? If you are 4 or above, please consider to be that lean project manager we all wish to be.

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