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Ivan Popov

i was once an athlete. then a journalist. now i am a ceo of an iT company. still running marathons though.

Let’s Discuss Project Management Pt.3: Lean Methodology

lean methodology

The Lean methodology is all about adding value and getting rid of waste.

During the last couple of weeks, I wrote two articles that focused entirely on two major project management methodologies. The first one had to do with the infamous Waterfall method that is still widely used in many companies and in many instances. The second article was dedicated to the Agile method with its ever-changing approaches making it quite dynamic and proactive.

I definitely believe each and every project management system has its advantages and is worth being checked out. But in a case for us to do so, we first need to get to know the methods to their core, right?

That’s why it’s time I continue this articles series – today I decided to focus on the Lean methodology since it’s gaining more and more fans out there. Let’s see what’s it all about!

In order for us to understand the Lean methodology, we first need to understand why it’s so important for a business to bring value to its customers

I’ve spoken numerous times about the importance of bringing value to the customers.

Let’s say you have a business idea – initially, you’re planning to create a product that’s very peculiar, curious, and futuristic, but without any value whatsoever. Do you think your business would thrive if none of your potential customers find it reasonable to spend their money on your product or service?

Perhaps that’s why a vital part of coming up with a business plan has to do with audience research. This step is dedicated to getting to know your potential customers and asks the most important question: Will they find value in what you’re about to offer them?

In this day and age, we live in a world that’s mostly on over-consumption. This means that the market is practically loaded with products and services that are just patiently waiting for their next buyer. But every entrepreneur or business person knows that the way of making a step forward in front of everybody else is making a difference. This difference is what will essentially bring value to your company. It’s because of this difference that customers would prefer you next to your biggest competitor in the field.

So we’ve come to terms that value in business and offering products and services is of great importance. But let’s add another layer to the subject – adding value can greatly impact the way a business decides to run its projects.

That’s where the Lean methodology comes into place. First invented by the company Toyota, the Lean approach has two main goals: to add value while getting rid of waste and to improve the project processes constantly. Also, it mainly focuses on the appreciation of the people involved in the project since it expects everybody to come up with an incredibly valuable idea.

So, when using the Lean methodology, a team has one major goal: to determine fast which ideas and approaches are likely to bring the most value to the customer in terms of creating the best products and services. While doing so, the team must also determine which actions and decisions would not particularly be followed up by value – in Lean, those are also called waste. The team’s goal is to get rid of actions, plans, and ideas that would just be a waste of time and energy.

Much like any other project management system, the Lean methodology has its own step-by-step guide

I’ve said numerous times that a company should choose the perfect project management approach based on every project’s specifications, characteristics, and requirements.

If you’ve stumbled upon a project that you believe would best suit the Lean methodology course of action and you wonder where should you begin, then here is the step-by-step guide on using the Lean approach:

  • first of all, we need to find the most important value we can add to the project in terms of clients’ satisfaction – as we’ve stated, the Lean approach greatly relies on value. In this step, the team should foresee the value they wish to offer based on the overall project requirements. Be it a specific product or a service, the end result’s main goal would be to bring value to the customer.
  • the second step has much to do with planning – once you’ve got the main goal/value in mind, it’s time to come up with a plan each step of which should bring you closer and closer to the project execution. This step involves the distribution and assignment of tasks and duties, as well as the team selection.
  • third, try making sure everyone’s job is running smoothly – the Lean method, as its name suggests, relies strongly on a smooth workflow. That’s why plenty of time is spent on planning and searching for the proper steps. The team should focus mainly on taking action into tasks that add to the end value – everyone should avoid wasting time and energy on duties that have no actual benefit to the end result.
  • the infamous “pull system” is a quintessential part of the Lean approach – in short, the pull system is a “work on demand” approach where a certain task or job is done only if its needs to be done. This again adds to the much-desired avoidance of waste. The pull system is often explained as your orders in a restaurant – the cook starts to prepare your dish after you’ve ordered it, not in advance. This approach saves lots of time and energy that can be easily directed at more important tasks.
  • have everyone in the team involved in the process – in Lean, everyone in the team is required to participate actively in the execution of the project. Be it with actions, opinions, or even fresh ideas – there is no strict hierarchy in the Lean methodology and anyone can come up with a course of action. This largely has to do with the second pillar of Lean – continuous development! (The first is adding value.)

The bottom line

When we talk about the Lean methodology, we usually think of the establishment of new business ideas since this approach manages to work wonders in terms of adding value for the potential target audience of customers. But it also can be an extremely beneficial tool for project management as well – as we can see, we can safely transfer Lean’s pillars into a project management plan and stick to it. It’s always great to have plenty of options to choose from.


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