Project Management in a Lean Way
BY VISUKUMAR GOPAL, MBA, PMP
Lean is a strategy, philosophy, and leadership approach for operating in a superior way. Lean thinking is a powerful methodology that can help to maximize the real value. Lean is not for fixing people; it helps in fixing process and influences behavioral change.
Many Lean principles and tools are applicable in project management. A project must have a “Constancy of Purpose.”
During initiation, we need to get all the stakeholders on board, and understand and set expectations so that all the stakeholders are on the same page as the project proceeds.
“Respect for People”
allows bringing out the full potential of each team member during the project duration. Even small ideas need to be explored in a noncritical environment that helps improve the team’s confidence level. During a project, even when the assigned tasks are completed on time and deliverables meet the current standard, it does not always produce acceptable results.
The “Pursuit of Perfection”
helps to refine the deliverables more accurately, meet the requirements to the full extent, and go beyond expectations. The above-mentioned three principles are the foundation for any projects to start in a Lean way.
The planning phase provides room for new initiatives and to make a difference to project deliverables. Proactive behavior
makes planning more effective and helps the project team to deliver in a well-disciplined way.
During execution, the project team starts delivering as per customer expectations. Voice of Customer
helps define the business process and expectations of customers clearly. Often it is interpreted as customer feedback. Proactive behavior in listening to the customer helps to understand requirements well.
While working on projects with multiple vendors and function teams, we must get into their shoes to understand their challenges. This System Thinking
helps to avoid unnecessary negative communication and reduce time wastage.
If we understand stakeholders’ perspectives about requirements and their functions, it helps to deliver project deliverables with Quality at the Source
during the execution phase.
During the control phase, depending on the progress of the project, we can set the flow of completed work based on requirements and the customer can pull the required elements based on priority. These stabilized flow/pull
mechanism helps in an easy way to control and monitor the project.
In the closing phase, by adopting Lean principles, we can see the culture change along with lessons learned. Because of the strong foundation during initiation, behavior change during planning, perspective clearance during execution, and flow/pull mechanism during the control phase, the project manager can build a culture change during the close phase of the project. Culture is the capstone of the Lean principles pyramid.
Lean tools like Pareto
and Cause and Effect Analysis
are being used in project management. TAKT Time
is another tool that helps a project manager during the planning phase to identify the available time for production per day against the set target.
The next tool is Heijunka
that uses in load balancing during the execution phase. It helps in leveling of task flow, delivers as per customer demand, and enables optimum resource utilization in small batches.
is another tool useful during execution. While developing and producing the deliverables, simple and failsafe methods that prevent mistakes or defects from occurring are known as PokaYoke.
During the control phase, Kanban
can be used to monitor completion of tasks. This signal system helps to perform priority-wise task allocation. Different systems can be used for this signaling mechanism, and it is an effective way to monitor at this stage.
tools can be used in execution, control, and close phases of most projects. Kaizen means continuous improvement and helps in the pursuit of perfection. It allows a small group of people to brainstorm in a structured manner on possible improvements, leading to innovation.
Marrying Lean principles and tools with project management techniques will increase the project success rate. It also improves the efficiency, productivity, and on time completion of projects. Lean and project management can improve the performance of a project organization.
(Mr. Visukumar Gopal is practice manager at Syntel Ltd. He has over 16 years of experience in project, process, and people management.)