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Lean Management Principles: How to Eliminate Waste

written by: Joe Taylor Jr. • edited by: Jean Scheid • updated: 7/11/2013

By looking at how teams can work more efficiently and by identifying non-essential project elements, project managers can eliminate bottlenecks and improve productivity.

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    Trim the Fat

    285 2905709 Some project managers explain the concept of “lean project management" as an offshoot of Six Sigma. Other professionals regard this practice as an adaptation of traditional project management principles by computer programmers working on fast paced assignments.

    Regardless of how it evolved, lean project management is a methodology that has become attractive to team leaders looking for fast results on critical “turnaround assignments." Most project managers decide to “go lean" when faced with budget cuts or other constraints. Tasked with eliminating waste throughout a project or a process, managers can discover how to make their teams more effective using fewer resources.

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    Start with a Work Breakdown Structure

    Some project managers find themselves attracted to lean project management, thinking that “eliminating waste" means shortening or abandoning the traditional project cycle. In fact, lean teams rely more heavily on the project cycle and on their organizational processes than traditional project teams.

    Without strong plans and teams that understand their value, lean project management principles can’t help managers eliminate waste. A strong work breakdown structure identifies which team members hold responsibilities for various deliverables and milestones. Armed with this information, a lean project manager can watch how connections between team members impact quality and performance.

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    Measure Everything

    Lean project management developed, in part, because of the excellent measurement tools available to most project managers. In today’s workplace, managers can review any kind of data, from the number of project hours clocked by a team to the amount of time required for specific tasks.

    Because adding measurement elements might sometimes appear to be wasteful or redundant to some team members, lean project management emphasizes a culture of trust and respect. This project management philosophy works best when team members understand that new forms of measurement are focused on getting better results instead of placing blame for past problems.

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    Emphasize Dependencies over Deadlines

    In early phases of lean project management, expert project managers prefer to review the way that work elements pass between team members. Lean project management differentiates itself from other methodologies by emphasizing the opportunity to improve “hand-offs" while assuming that team members can hold themselves accountable to improving their solo performance.

    Looking at the weak links in a project’s chain exposes some of the most wasteful practices in an organization. By focusing on eliminating bottlenecks within teams, project managers can build strong routines for future projects or for future iterations of the same development process.

Lean Project Management Principles

Most project managers decide to use lean project management strategies when faced with budget cuts or other constraints. Tasked with eliminating waste throughout a project or a process, managers can discover how to make their teams more effective using fewer resources.
  1. Lean Management Principles: How to Eliminate Waste
  2. Principles of Lean Project Management: Amplify Learning
  3. Principles of Lean Project Management: Decide Late, Deliver Fast
  4. Principles of Lean Project Management: Empowerment, Respect, Integrity
  5. Principles of Lean Project Management: Seeing the Whole