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What is Lean Project Management?

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The IGLC 2016 Conference has the Touchplan crew thinking about Lean Construction and Lean Project Management. We’ve been so focused on talking to you about our smarter planning initiatives that we haven’t discussed Lean in a while. Here is a quick tutorial to explain the whole Lean thing, if you are curious.

What is Lean project management?

Lean project management is the means to save money through a reduction of waste and an increase of efficiency. It is the strategy by which we avoid making tradeoffs in time, cost, and quality. In using a lean project management style, we focus on the process used to create our project as much as we focus on the end product itself. By improving the process through which we finish a project, we are able to eliminate much of the time and money-sucking inefficiencies that typically exist.

Lean construction management starts with identifying the task and the program value. The customer assigns value and we move forward attempting to maximize their value as efficiently as possible. Knowing what outcome the customer wants allows us and the team to map out the steps required to reach the customer’s goal. We make sure that the work steps flow from one to another in a streamlined manner. Project planning is done backwards to make sure that goals will be met by the required due date. Lean encourages a continuous refinement of the planning process.  Lean accomplishes this by making missed promises visible to everyone working on the project and by fixing those mistakes that are the biggest impediment to a smooth, reliable plan.

What are Lean’s pros and cons?

The biggest advantage to using lean construction management is reducing time and money spent on a project. We do this a couple of ways.

The first way is by avoiding work stoppages and delays through early identification of potential bottlenecks. The pull planning technique allows everyone to identify what they need to do their work and when they need it. Handoffs between trades/team members are clearly identified. Second, we create the project plan by listening and incorporating the knowledge and experience of our trade contractors and other team leaders. Including these planners in our project management creates a culture of project ownership among team members. This team buy-in speeds up completion times, and increases timeline accountability. Our hard working employees and trade contractors on the front line are our most important resource for identifying and fixing problems.

When we know where problems are likely to occur, we can plan ways to avoid running into those problems.

The hardest part about adopting a lean construction management style is for schedulers and project managers to become comfortable with sharing their command and control power. It takes some adjustment to assume more of a facilitator role.