Lean Project Management

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Lean project management is the application of lean concepts such as lean construction, lean manufacturing and lean thinking to project management.

Lean project management has many ideas in common with other lean concepts; however, the main principle of lean project management is delivering more value with less waste in a project context.

Lean Project Management applies all five of those principles to project management.

“Lean” is a systematic method for the elimination of waste (“Muda”) within a manufacturing system. Lean also takes into account waste created through overburden (“Muri”) and waste created through unevenness in work loads (“Mura”). Working from the perspective of the client who consumes a product or service, “value” is any action or process that a customer would be willing to pay for.

Lean approach makes obvious what adds value by reducing everything else which does not add value. This management philosophy is derived mostly from the Toyota Production System (TPS) and identified as “lean” only in the 1990s. TPS is renowned for its focus on reduction of the original Toyota seven wastes to improve overall customer value, but there are varying perspectives on how this is best achieved. The steady growth of Toyota, from a small company to the world’s largest automaker, has focused attention on how it has achieved this success.

In general, a project can be said to be Lean if it applies the principles of lean thinking.. There are, however, different implementations of this idea that don’t necessarily apply all of the principles with equal weight.

Two well-known types are “Kanban” and “Last Planner System”.

The term Kanban comes from manufacturing but was adapted for software development by David Anderson when he was working at Microsoft in 2005 and inherited an underperforming maintenance team. The success of the approach in that environment, led Anderson to experiment with Kanban in projects, with similarly positive results. As Anderson publicised his findings through talks and his book , software developers began to experiment with Kanban and it is now one of the most widely used methods for managing agile software development projects.

The Last Planner System is used principally in construction and particularly focuses on pull and flow but perhaps more important than those is its emphasis on a collaborative approach in which all trades work together to create a visual representation of the work that needs to be done.

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Project Network

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A project network is a graph (weighted directed graph) depicting the sequence in which a project’s terminal elements are to be completed by showing terminal elements and their dependencies. It is always drawn from left to right to reflect project chronology.

The work breakdown structure or the product breakdown structure show the “part-whole” relations. In contrast, the project network shows the “before-after” relations.

The most popular form of project network is activity on node (AON) (as shown above), the other one is activity on arrow (AOA).

The condition for a valid project network is that it doesn’t contain any circular references.

Project dependencies can also be depicted by a predecessor table. Although such a form is very inconvenient for human analysis, project management software often offers such a view for data entry.

An alternative way of showing and analyzing the sequence of project work is the design structure matrix or dependency structure matrix.