Project Management Lean: Not Only for Manufacturing

November 19th, 2020 in Productivity

Project Management Lean: Not Only for Manufacturing

The project management lean method is more so related to manufacturing. However, it has applications for managing other projects. The main goal of lean is to reduce waste in projects, which produces a greater customer satisfaction and improved profit margin. If lean is not right for the project, Agile project management offers a broader management technique

According to the Project Management Institute, “To be Lean is to provide what is needed, when it is needed, with the minimum amount of materials, equipment, labour, and space.” Lean emphasises identifying and eliminating waste in the work processes, which helps increase efficiency.

In the project management lean method, value is specified by identifying the objectives, deliverables, and requirements of a project. The “value” is the end result of the project, or what the customer is purchasing. The value stream is the flow in which the product is created. It can be mapped out and analyzed to identify and eliminate waste in the process.

In terms of project management, scope creep, or uncontrolled scope change, adds waste. To avoid scope creep, have a strong communications plan. Assess the impact of new functionalities on the project objectives and receive formal approval from the customer or project committee. The value stream is as follows: value -> review -> approvals -> waiting -> inspection -> rework -> customer.

The value factors of lean include removing redundancies and creating a continuous flow of information while minimizing information handoffs. As well, other factors include balancing reviews and responsibility, improving communication systems, and maximizing concurrent processing. Lean also allows for the implementation of integrated product and process development.

How to Implement:

  • Specify the value, or define what that value of a product or service is that customers are willing to pay
  • Identify the value stream of each product by producing a value stream map that represents the current process and analyze it to reduce waste
    • Work falls into three types: value-added work, value-enabling work, and non value-added work
    • Value-added work is essential changes to the product or service and should be maximized
    • Value-enabling work is work that can be eliminated in the future, but is currently needed
    • Non value-added work can be eliminated as soon as possible as it is not dependent on other areas
  • Create a “future-state map” that identifies how the process should operate once waste is removed
    • Waste includes over production, waiting, transportation, over processing, inventory, motion, and defects
  • Allow the customer to “pull” or dictate the flow of production. Use Kanban boards to create a just-in-time system in which the product or service is only provided when a customer requests it
  • Continuously improve the process in the pursuit of perfection

When to Use It: The project management lean method is used to optimize the manufacturing processes. Some of its principles, such as finding ways to eliminate waste, can be applied to other industries, such as software development. Lean is helpful for breaking down work into management pieces that can be measured and delivered faster and with a higher quality.


Project Management Institute. Lean Project Management.

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