Lean Practices

Lean Practices in Project Management

Lean Practices have been working miracles in manufacturing for decades, driving early adopters most notably Toyota to the top of their markets.  Given that track record, lean processes are now cropping up in project management across many industries.

Organisations that apply lean principles to their project management practices are able to identify and weed out processes and activities that introduce wasteful spending. In a world of big-budget projects and programs, such improvements can yield huge bottom-line benefits.

Applying lean principles to program management drives greater efficiencies and value to the customer and the organisation. Lean project management is about reducing or eliminating waste and inefficiencies by identifying opportunities to improve planning and execution, which results in improving the quality, productivity, efficiency and effectiveness.

The Guide to Lean Enablers for Managing Engineering Programs, released in 2012 by the Project Management Institute (PMI), the International Council on Systems Engineering (INCOSE) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), outlined key challenges that projects and programs face and offered up approximately 300 best practices in 40 categories that effective teams and organisations use to overcome these issues.

The PMI/INCOSE/MIT Guide to Lean Enablers for Managing Engineering Programs identified 10 common challenges or behaviours that drive waste and inefficiencies in engineering programs.

  1.  Reactive project and program execution
  2.  Unstable, unclear or incomplete requirements
  3.  Insufficient alignment and coordination of the extended enterprise
  4. Locally optimised processes that are  not integrated across the enterprise
  5. Unclear roles, responsibilities and accountability
  6. Mismanagement of project and program culture, team competency and knowledge
  7. Insufficient project and program planning
  8. Improper metrics, metrics systems and key performance indicators
  9. Lack of proactive project and program risk management
  10. Poor project and program acquisition and contracting practices.

The report also examined how six key principles of lean practices could limit the impact of these challenges.

  1. Build a project and program culture that respects people
  2. Capture the value defined by the key customer stakeholders
  3. Map the value stream and eliminate waste
  4. Flow the work through planned and streamlined processes
  5. Let customer stakeholders pull value
  6. Pursue perfection in all processes.

Application of lean enablers is designed to reduce and/or eliminate waste. The program manager can use the challenges and enablers to develop the program plan, and help identify and mitigate risks.

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