What is lean project management?

Lean project management seeks to focus project management on eliminating non-essential elements. The goal is to reduce costs, eliminate bottlenecks, and improve overall productivity. As a by-product, the management itself is often simplified.

Lean project management can mean fewer people are collaborating.

Lean projects originated in Japan during the 1980s. John Krafcik coined the term “lean manufacturing” in 1988 to demonstrate measures taken to improve productivity. In the 1990s, thinkers like Lauri Koskela applied this to the construction industry. Since then, the idea has permeated all kinds of project management.

Traditional project management is divided into several phases, including initiation, planning, research and development, and production. In addition, there is a control system to monitor each phase. These projects tend to keep different departments or teams separate from each other. They are also prone to phase structure deviations and miscommunication.

Lean project management seeks to correct common mistakes in traditional project management.

Lean project management, on the other hand, seeks to correct common mistakes in traditional project management. A common misconception among project managers is that lean management leads to abandonment of these phases. Lean management actually sticks more to these phases. This forces the project team to create more solid plans without deviations.

To more closely follow the cycle, some companies realized they needed to encourage cross-team collaboration. This has become a key component of lean project management. First of all, all project stakeholders are involved in the initiation phase of the project. That means everyone is on the same page when the next phase begins.

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Designers and producers then work together on research and development as well as production. By participating in production, designers are more likely to make practical designs. This reduces the time spent on recasts. It also reduces communication loops between management, designers, and the production team because everyone is physically in the same space.

A key component of any business rationalization is cost reduction, and lean management is no different. Most project managers seek to define the materials needed for a project as soon as possible. However, most projects are subject to changes in design and materials. By buying in advance, the project team spends too much on materials and creates a lot of waste.

By comparison, lean project management aims to block material orders at the last reasonable moment. This means giving the R&D department as much time as possible to complete projects, but without creating a huge gap between development and production. In this way, only the necessary materials are acquired. They are also more likely to be purchased in the correct amounts.

The control element of project management is also an integral part of lean project management. On-site monitoring reduces communication loops and increases productivity. Project managers can instill plan, check, and adjust (PDCA) cycles into all project elements to learn from mistakes. This also helps keep the project focused and avoid deviations from the main goal.

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