Lean project management focuses on reducing non-essential components in projects. Quite often the management itself will be streamlined and the objective is to eliminate bottlenecks, reduce costs and improve productivity.
Traditionally, project management covers many phases such as research, planning, initiation, development and production, plus a control system to monitor the different phases. The teams or departments are usually kept as separate entities during these projects, which leads to deviations and miscommunication.
On the other hand, lean project management involves streamline processes to reduce costs and improve efficiency. Project managers usually aim to get the materials for projects at the earliest possible time, but most times there are changes materials and designs. As a result, early purchases lead to overspending and create lots of waste.
Lean project management will aim to order materials at a reasonable time before the project starts. In doing so, the research and development team will have enough time to finalize the designs and avoid huge gaps between the development and the production phase. So, only the necessary materials will be purchased in the right quantities.
Streamlining projects actually started during the 80s in Japan when lean manufacturing was used as an approach to demonstrate ways to improve productivity. Since then, lean concepts have been used in all kinds of project management.
Essentially, lean project management will help to correct the common mistakes which usually occur in traditional management. Contrary to what most project managers believe, the phases in lean management are not totally different from the traditional ones. For this reason, the project team will be forced to come up with robust plans to avoid the miscommunication and deviation problems.
Some companies have discovered that teams must collaborate to keep things in line with the cycle, so this is now a key element of lean management. For one, all stakeholders must participate in the project during the initiation phase to ensure that everyone is working together to start the following phase.
After that, producers and designers will combine forces to work on the research, development and production. When designers are involved in the production phase, this will result in more practical designs and reduce the time that they would take to do redesigns. In addition, this will reduce communication problems between the production team, designers and management since everyone will be working in one physical space.
Finally, the control element will also play an important role in lean project management. Project managers can avoid deviations by instigating PDCA (plan-do-check-adjust) cycles for all components of the project. When monitoring is done onsite, this will reduce communication loops and improve overall productivity.