What is Lean Project Management?

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

Lean project management can mean fewer people are collaborating.

Simplification 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, this was then applied to the construction industry by thinkers like Lauri Koskela. Since then, the idea has permeated all types 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 abandoning these phases. Lean management actually clings more closely to these phases. This forces the project team to create stronger plans without deviations.

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

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Then designers and producers work together in 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 all business rationalization is cost reduction, and lean management is no different. Most project managers look to define the materials needed for a project as early as possible. Most projects, however, are subject to changes in design and materials. By purchasing in advance, the project team actually overspends on materials and creates a lot of waste.

In 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 finalize projects, but avoid 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 quantities.

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 planning, verification, and adjustment (PDCA) cycles across all elements of the project to learn from mistakes. This also helps to keep the project focused and avoid deviations from the main objective.

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