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Principles of Lean Project Management: Seeing the Whole

written by: Joe Taylor Jr. • edited by: Michele McDonough • updated: 3/14/2012

Looking at the big picture is the most crucial component of Lean project management. Celebrating big wins while valuing failures helps teams focus on continuous improvement. Read on to learn more about bringing together Lean project management principles.

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    Respecting the Project Cycle

    Practitioners of Lean project management often refer to what they do as “seeing the whole." Given the kinds of tools that project managers use on a daily basis, like Gantt charts, task timers, and checklists, it’s easy for business professionals to find themselves focused too heavily on the mundane aspects of even a world-changing project. Instead, Lean project management offers company leaders a platform upon which they can create a highly effective workplace that validates individual achievement while leaving plenty of time to plan and brainstorm.

    “Seeing the whole" also refers to the way in which project managers view the traditional project cycle. Instead of being in a hurry to get to the “fun part," or the implementation phase, team leaders can relish the ability to set agendas and to weed out unnecessary project elements. Moving through the project cycle many times over the course of a year opens up new opportunities to respond to customer demands while freeing teams from tasks that have little or no resonance with target markets.

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    Focusing on the Big Picture

    For project managers accustomed to time horizons of quarters or years, Lean project management principles can be something of a revelation. Instead of rescheduling timelines and worrying about which project elements to “fast track," project managers can use Lean project management to carve unsuccessful elements from their initiatives while celebrating the overall successes of their other projects. This philosophy can also help companies adopt a modular approach to problem solving, allowing talented team members to tackle parts of a challenge instead of waiting for solutions to appear in order.

    This explains the recent popularity of Lean project management among software development teams. Developers tend to work in iterative cycles, focusing on major releases, feature updates, and bug fixes. Teams that use Lean project management to set routine cycles for releases tend to organize feature requests more effectively. Setting a clear schedule for regular updates assures customers of continual improvement, while unburdening team members of the pressure to solve all of a product’s problems in the very next release.

    Lean project management may not be right for every organization, for every team, or for every project. However, for companies with strong leaderships and a commitment to continuous improvement, this philosophy offers a solid foundation on which to build high quality products and services.

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