What Is Lean Project Management? Principles & Benefits

Updated Dec 5, 2022.

Project managers and organizations have to deal with different types of projects. A common problem that all these project types have is that they share the same problems.

Many projects fail as a result of project surplus which can reduce the project value and cause scope creep. To solve these problems, project managers and organizations use different project management techniques such as agile, waterfall, scrum, scrumban, six sigma, and others.

The ultimate goal of the project manager is to add value and reduce waste throughout the project life cycle. The project management framework that allows the project manager to achieve this goal with 100% efficiency is lean project management.

Let’s get started.

What is Lean Project Management?

Lean project management is the application of lean principles in project management. The goal of this agile project management methodology is to maximize the value of the product while reducing waste. Lean principles were developed by Toyota in the 1950s.

There are three types of waste identified by Toyota in lean manufacturing. These three types of waste are named in Japanese and collectively referred to as the 3M.

  • Muda is the elimination of waste in the manufacturing system
  • Muri is waste created by overburden or the overuse of employees or equipment
  • Mura is waste created by uneven workloads

The purpose of lean project management aims to reduce the three types of waste in the manufacturing process.

A project is considered lean when it provides what is needed, when it is needed, with a limited amount of resources. This agile methodology focuses on delivering value based on your customer’s perspective, trimming down waste to the barest minimum, and continuously improving the project.

Lean project management is a situation where there is no waste and minimum resources are used to their full potential to achieve the project goals and objectives.

Benefits of Lean Project Management

Lean project management holds several benefits for project managers and organizations that implement it. With lean project management, you reduce waste, maximize resources, and increase efficiency and productivity.

1. Greater Visibility

When the resources needed to achieve a goal is clear, this provides visibility to the team. This is because the team will have access to what is available and know how limited the resources are to work towards achieving the goal with the minimum resources available.

2. Improved Communication

One of the most important benefits of lean project management is that it improves communication among the team. Everyone in the team will have access to information about the project. They know what needs to be done with the minimum amount of materials and equipment.

This improved communication is not limited to the teams and organization but also includes the clients who enjoy regular reports leading to higher satisfaction.

3. Higher Quality at Minimum Cost

Lean project management allows you to produce higher quality products at the minimum cost. By establishing the needs of your clients, your team is well informed of what to focus on to produce better products with minimum cost and resources that satisfy your clients.

4. Guarantee of Product Delivery

The essence of every project is to complete it. Lean project management gives a sense of accomplishment. Completing a project on time or within the schedule is very important.

Lean project management ensures that you only use the resources that are needed for the project, saving you from overusing available resources which can lead to project failure.

5. Waste Reduction and Reduced Cost

In lean project management, project managers focus more on productivity and efficiency which cuts project time and eliminates errors as waste. Most teams through constant monitoring of every activity on the project can reduce non-value-added activities and processes.

Lean project management allows project managers and organizations to reduce waste and cost in the production process.

6. Increase in Productivity

When there are different improvements and checks and balances on a project, this will lead to higher levels of productivity. Teams will be able to improve, identify and resolve problems easily and strike out waste.

Through clear definition, every department will have their focus on their target and this will bring about a smooth project workflow.

7. Enhanced Customer Service

Lean project management causes you to focus on what the customer needs. Seeking responses from the customer as the project progresses helps you create the kind of product or service that will satisfy your customer.

8. Improved Inventory Management

Project managers and organizations benefit richly from adopting lean project management. They record lower inventory and storage costs as they produce only what is needed.

Lean project management helps you prevent setbacks by constantly monitoring your inventory levels. You also enjoy better lead times which results in quicker response and little or no delay.

5 Principles of Lean Project Management

The five principles of lean project management were structured in 1997 by the Lean Enterprises Institute (LEI).

1. Value

Ticking all the value boxes in every task and project eliminates tasks that do not add value to the project. By combining all value-added activities and workforce, customer demands get implemented faster and efficiently.

When the value is specified, this makes achieving perfection easy especially when both client and organization are aware of the values of the project.

2. Value Stream

These are processes in project management that lead to adding worth to the demands of clients on products and services.

The value stream starts at the initial concept of the project, it ends and starts with a customer. A value stream gives a full representation of how value is achieved by organizations for both internal and external stakeholders.

3. Flow

When waste or non-value-added items have been eliminated, the next thing is to start or continue the remaining task in a smooth flow of work without delay. To create continuous flow through eliminating backflows and interruption, there has to be value-added and value-enabling work.

These value-added work are essential changes to products and services because they bring out the best and only the best in projects.

4. Pull

Improved flow brings about excellent time management in project management. Time management makes it easier to deliver products as needed and in time.

A pull system allows the team to start new work when the customers demand it, this simply means customers can pull products at any time. The essence of this is to reduce and optimize storage costs. By doing this, teams can build products based on actual demand and forecast.

5. Pursuit of Perfection

This is the final step to lean project management, the questioning of the value of every step and activity in the process of delivering a project.

The essence of this is to bring out the very best in every activity which will increase the value of the product. This will provide safe products and services with top-notch quality.

However the state of perfection cannot be reached, but lean project management continues to strive for it to produce a product at least close to perfection.

How to Use Kanban for Lean Projects

Kanban is a project management framework used to implement agile, software development, and IT operations. This agile methodology is a workflow management method for managing and improving services that deliver efficient work.

You can define Kanban as a visual system for managing work as it moves through its process. This works at different levels of the organization.

Kanban project management is a popular project management method that can be used by any company or organization of different sizes. You can use it to track the progress of your project and give clear and well-detailed status reports on projects.

Most projects do not get completed on time and within budget. With Kanabm, you can implement lean project management to ensure that project waste is reduced to the barest minimum.

1. Planning and Prioritizing

There is a need for a kanban board. This contains tasks that have not been started yet and the ongoing work in a well-organized and structured way.

Planning and Prioritizing Activities
Source: Kanbanflow

Planning activities take place at different levels. There is the strategic level planning and the team level planning. Common knowledge in Kanban is that tasks are arranged according to their level of importance. The higher the level of the task on the board, the higher its priority.

2. Tracking and Forecasting

There are various tools and charts on the Kanban software that make the work of organizations and project managers easier to track and forecast. They include the cumulative flow diagram, cycle time trends, and Monte Carlo simulations.

3. Increase Customer Satisfaction

Kanban software with its various tools is a game-changer in project management. Using Kanban brings about a shorter delivery time and increases the chances of predictability.

This increases customer satisfaction when there are shorter deliveries of products and services. Kanban software also brings about greater communication between the customer and the organization.

4. Transparent Work Environment

The kanban board allows you to visualize your workload through its board, where all the work is structured and there is a step-by-step diagram of the process. This allows a flow of information on different levels of the organization and gives team members unlimited access to information.

Kanban boards create transparency and establish a channel of communication not only within the organization but also with clients.

5. Relief of Burden and Workforce

Kanban creates an easy and organized system that allows you to have a better understanding of the work state and project status.

This creates an environment where team members are relieved from the heavy workload and project managers can relax and have control of the whole operation through the kanban board.

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Martin Luenendonk

Editor at FounderJar

Martin loves entrepreneurship and has helped dozens of entrepreneurs by validating the business idea, finding scalable customer acquisition channels, and building a data-driven organization. During his time working in investment banking, tech startups, and industry-leading companies he gained extensive knowledge in using different software tools to optimize business processes.

This insights and his love for researching SaaS products enables him to provide in-depth, fact-based software reviews to enable software buyers make better decisions.