If you are here, you have come to the right page. Welcome to the best guide on what lean project management is.

After you finish reading this Lean project management article, you will learn the details of the lean framework and understand why it is such a favored methodology.

You will understand how it improves continuous flow during processes and how important customer value is, among other things you will learn.

In this article, we have highlighted the following:

What Is Lean Project Management Methodology
Lean Application In Project Management And Management Principles
The 7 Wastes During A  Lean Program Management
Lean Management Tools
Benefits of Lean Project Management

Here we go, ready yourself!

What Is Lean Project Management Methodology?

This is the use of lean manufacturing principles during project management.

The goal of lean project management is maximizing value and minimizing waste.

The lean method is proof that principles of lean are very instrumental in various areas.

The principles are all about value delivery from your client’s perspective, waste reduction, and regular improvement resulting in project managers’ capability to efficiently run the project and make quality delivery with less.

Compared to the traditional methodology where phases and structures are in place to distinguish planning and execution, the lean approach allows a project team to promptly deliver by efficient workflow management and focusing on quality delivery from the client’s perspective.

To further understand how this is possible, looking at what lean entails and the important part it plays in running projects would help.

Lean Application & Lean Management Principles

Lean Management was first implemented in 1940, and for the past eight decades, it continues to be the global tool widely used in optimizing work processes.

It doesn’t matter what industry the lean methodology is being used in, its principles will always be consistent.

The 5 Lean Principles

1. Note Customer’s Perspective On Value

In general, identifying value delivers as per customers’ needs and not only simply what they stated in their requirements.

 Check out what the customer considers as value by noting objectives, deliverables, requirements, and acceptable processes.

That value that is evident in the result is the big earner courtesy of the customer gladly and comfortably making the value payment.

Therefore the customers’ words should define what value is from the beginning.

Another fact about Lean is that any activity not focused on solving issues or delivering the result is simply a wasted resource.

Preventing waste buildup is then done by creating a strong relationship and establishing strong communication channels with the customer.

This helps project managers reach out to customers and seek clarification on requirements that are not clear early in the project.

 Potential conflicts existing in value definitions could also be resolved with the customer’s collaboration.

Putting more effort into understanding what the customer means by value, will make customer satisfaction a reality and eliminate waste and risk.

2. Value Stream Mapping

During the traditional running of projects, the next thing that follows is creating the project plan complete with a work breakdown structure.

But, using the  Lean principles focuses all energies on value.

Therefore the next thing during the application of the Lean principles will be creating the value stream map.

This map will be showing a step-by-step process of how value is being created.

Mainly this map creation process will further result in the best overall process that identifies any discrepancies and successfully eliminates them.

 Any wasted resources will be saved, and more value will be delivered less in the end.

Cutting out those wasteful steps during product development will shorten the delivery process.

In most cases, Kanban is the ideal choice for the team to identify the value stream.

The mapped value stream offers this direct view of the big picture on the Kanban board to your project team.

This will allow you to optimize the whole operational efficiency.

When the value of your team or organization works positively, and impressive results are generated from your target market and cumulative skill set, your value stream map can also be adapted for different projects.

You can keep optimizing your project execution process, and every new project you take on can use the optimization steps you created from that previous project.

3. Continuous Workflow Creation

After identifying the value that your customer expects and mapping your value stream, the next important step you need to focus on is smooth and quality delivery.

But, for this to happen, identify and eliminate the wasteful activities in your process.

Remember that in lean project management, any process steps that use up resources and add zero value are considered waste.

The successful elimination of wasteful activities is one of the most vital prerequisites for creating successful projects.

 This concept is a major part of lean thinking and is a great way of increasing profitability.

This idea of waste elimination came from the Toyota Production System.

Taiichi Ohno, a Japanese production-control expert, is ranked as one of the creators of lean manufacturing.

He focused his whole career on creating a solid and efficient work process.

This expert, therefore, came  up with three main roadblocks that can negatively influence work processes in an organization, and they are:

  • Muda(Wasteful Activities)
  • Mura(Unevenness)
  • Muri(Overburden)

4. Pull System Creation

A pull system is defined as work entering the workflow only when the demand for it exists.

A work item cannot be started in a pull system before an actual need is established.

The focus is mainly on delivering what the customer wants and when they want it.

The pull system prevents building up waste during the project and boosts its efficiency and predictability.

But, when it comes to workflow management,  a pull system also involves having your team members pull work items only in scenarios where free capacity exists.

Such a system allows you to prioritize tasks better and begin the next task when you can work on it.

 To have an effective “pull” work system, you can incorporate the Work in Progress Limits.

WIP limits are a major element of the Kanban philosophy and have a proven effect on productivity.

When you limit the maximum amount of work items in the different work stage processes, this will minimize multitasking and context switching scenarios.

Your team members can easily focus on a certain work stage only when capacity is available.

With such a system in place, there will be zero tasks that will be pushed over and minimal interruptions or overburdening.

5. Pursuing Perfection

When incorporating the four lean principles into your project management, you will have made a significant transition from traditional to lean project management.

But, this final principle ensures that you are not just switching from A to B.

 It means you are maintaining continuous improvement and embracing the fact that your work system will always have room for improvement.

 In Lean, achieving perfection will always be an ongoing effort which is why it must never be seen as the final step of the project.

 It is something that you must do at every step.

Incorporating continuous improvement efforts into your projects will change your organization into a continuous learning system.

Therefore, the optimization of the team performance will always be viewed as a continuous effort.

This will promote quality, improve teams performance and ensure project success in the end.

The 7 Wastes During A Lean Program Management

1.            Inventory waste: Oftentimes inventory waste is the act of unnecessary overstocking.

Common inventory waste is the buying of little-needed online tools or purchasing unnecessary office supplies.

2.            Wait Time Waste: When a task is stagnant, this is the waiting waste and a major interrupter of continuous workflow.

One major cause of this kind of waste activity is when the teams await higher management’s approval before proceeding.

3.       Defects: The scenario where a rework happens or sometimes scrap are the ultimate indication of defects that are a major waste.

This waste is considered hazardous waste because it influences other types of waste.

In project management, wrong data collection, errors in conversation, and acceptance criteria that aren’t clear are major examples of defects.

4.           Overproduction: this happens when the delivery is exceeding the customer’s demands.

It is considered the worst form of waste because it influences the occurrence of other wastes.  

Overproduction could also be in the form of unnecessary documentation and communication.

5.           Motion Waste: Avoiding motion waste can be achieved by putting a  process in place that enables workers to do the minimum and still get the job successfully done.

Motion waste commonly happens results from teams not getting access to useful data.

6.           Transportation: This becomes wasteful when resources are moved, and the movement is not generating value for the finished product.

 Transportation waste commonly occurs in scenarios like task switching, interruptions, and unnecessary outsourcing.

7.           Over-processing: this is often exhibited as work that exceeds the customers’ requirements.

 Overprocessing takes the form of multiple approval levels for minor tasks and excessive reviews and seemingly endless iterations.

As a project manager applying lean principles, you need to eliminate these waste sources to allow value to dominate in your project.

 But, to ensure an uninterrupted workflow, stay alert for any potential bottlenecks.

A bottleneck happens when a part of the work process experiences a standstill because of capacity shortages.

The result is, therefore, continuous workflow interruption.

You can easily spot potential process blockages by studying your value stream and seeing what your workflow will look like.

Stability will be part of your process and any inefficiencies will be eliminated, and project resources will be used more efficiently in all milestones.

 In the end, a stable process is a predictable one and project managers can now accurately tell the customer and other stakeholders the exact time to expect completion and results.

Lean Management Tools

With the dedication and effort of your whole organization, the integration of lean principles becomes a success, but remember, this will not occur instantly.

It is a process like with everything good.

PDCA (Plan-Do-Check-Act Cycle)

This is also called Deming Cycle and it is a major lean manufacturing resource.

It is a method with four stages that comprises solution testing, results analysis, and process improvement to avoid repeatable mistakes and eventually improve operations.

Thanks to its iterative approach, this Deming Cycle’s purpose is product improvement, quality services, and improvement in overall team performance.

 PDCA remains a great way to establish a habit of solutions testing and minimize possible rework, boost customer satisfaction, and support continuous mentality improvement.

When you adopt the Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle in your process, you will eventually make project quality the order of operations.

Kanban Principles For Lean

Kanban is a common workflow management method that helps teams visualize their work, improve workflow and increase efficiency.

Adapting Kanban principles helps project managers reinvent how their teams go about work generally.

Kanban suggests incremental and evolutionary improvements to aid in the smooth lean transition.

The use of the Kanban boards promotes work transparency, makes communication easy and creates a work environment with minimum interruptions.

In short, Kanban offers accurate status reports on project progress, and everyone can access the information without having to ask questions.

 With each team member on the same page, any possible bottlenecks will be identified and eliminated.

With continuous self-improvement (Kaizen) and continuous improvement in work

processes, project success becomes inevitable.

Benefits Of Lean Project Management

There are various benefits of Lean Project Management, and they are as follows:

Greater Visibility: The project progress gets better visibility where everyone on the team can see how the work gets done, task priorities, short and long-term plans, project status, and risks.

 Information is shared more effectively, and everyone is on the same page.

A Happier Team: Your team understands how important their contribution is to the project and where they fit.

 Everything is transparent, and no one is operating on a blindfold which means less stress and more productivity.

Greater Control: With the team’s access to knowledge, the team can effectively manage risks and resources.

A more responsive and agile development system will result in the team being empowered to make better decisions.

Increased options: Lean presents alternate routes to success, and you have endless options to choose from.

Better Products: With more options and control, you are more likely to achieve your goals, including delivering high-quality products to your customers.

This is because you now know what your customer wants, and control and options are at your disposal.

Happier Customers: When you fully understand customer satisfaction from a customer’s perspective, you can’t deliver anything less.

No poor quality, no poor sales, and no wasting resources with reworks. Customers will be happy.

Faster Projects: With more knowledge and better decision-making capability in place, there is less time to address problems and quick completion of projects.

Sense of Accomplishment: There is nothing as satisfying as getting a project completed quickly and delivering high quality in the end. It is a good thing.

Increased Profits: Meeting your customer’s needs quickly means more sales and great profits.

Most customers are willing to pay as much as it takes for quality.

Better Resources:  When your organization has adapted to the lean methodology, there are no wasteful activities that cost resources.

This will generate a better budget to acquire resources such as better test equipment, software tools, spare parts, and other better resources required for project success.


We have seen what lean methodology focuses on in this article, especially the goal of lean manufacturing in reputable companies like Toyota and how it worked.

We have looked at lean principles in project management, the benefits, and the wasteful activities in lean.

We can see how the lean framework can work in any industry, whether software development or manufacturing.

It is a great methodology to use in project management because it ensures the completion of a project using minimum resources and time to meet customer demand.





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