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Digital marketer and translator, Elyssa spends her time putting NPD and engineering concepts into plain english and working on new and meaningful ways to connect with Playbook's amazing clients.

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8 Lean Project Management Principles to Increase Project Velocity

Elyssa Pallai- 01/7/16 06:00 PM

8 Lean Project Management Principles To Increase Project Velocity

It makes sense that if you increase speed to market, you increase profit. Unfortunately, organizations are struggling to move hardware development projects forward faster. Project management has evolved, but organizations have remained ‘stuck’ in the old way of doing things, using traditional software tools and methods. It's time for a change.

Fortunately, Don Reinertsen, and other product development systems thinkers have spent years studying how to make projects go faster, reviewing and testing various methodologies such as LeanAgileSix SigmaTheory of Constraints and a number of other approaches during thousands of projects with thousands of organizations.

The good news is that there is a method that works. This approach has many characteristics in common with Lean, Agile, Theory of Constraints, and also incorporates Information Theory, economic based decisions, Queuing Theory, and distributed management, as well as others.

The point is, we now have proven techniques and software tools to make projects run faster -- we call this method Lean Project Management.  But while some companies have made the change and are getting results, there are many that are unable to try anything new.

Why? Humans resist change. Change is hard. Change seems risky. Luckily these new principles are not rocket science, many of them are common sense.

8 Lean project management principles to increase project velocity

Here are 8 Lean Project Management principles that are proven to increase project velocity.  Small changes have an immediate, positive impact on profit.

  1. Make the work visible

    We are knowledge workers.  And the information we use to create that knowledge is largely invisible. The problem with invisible work is that you can’t see the bottlenecks! So the required first step in improving the system is to make work visible -- share the knowledge. Only then can you quickly react to the queues (bottlenecks in the project or system) that are forming and cause the everyday delays.

  2. Decrease the number of projects you have active

    Having too much work in the system has a serious impact on cycle-time. Once resources are loaded more than 70%, work starts to slow down exponentially. Besides the inherent slowness, it also forces people to multitask, which people are focused on non-value added work - work that is not moving the project forward. Effectively prioritizing the most profitable projects will increase your chance of project delivery and profitability.

  3. Ensure project and task priorities are clear across the organization

    One of the most critical principles -- in short, work on the right thing at the right time. In most companies, people are assigned to several projects. This makes it difficult for a person to know what their most important task is. In some cases, what a person sees (or is told) is their top priority, may be on a lower priority project. When the critical path and relative milestone priorities are clear, people can easily see what their correct individual priorities are across projects.

  4. Share information daily and in real time

    This principle was taken directly from Agile and the daily scrum meeting.  Meeting weekly slows down the feedback that is necessary to resolve blockages and keep the project on track. For example, roadblocks discovered on Monday may not be shared (and resolved) until Friday. Don't wait! Meet daily for short meetings to share important project information.

  5. Push work through the system in smaller chunks

    Large batches of work cause two problems. First, they create queues (where work sits and waits) when they move from place to place. Second, they decrease the rate of critical feedback. For example, waiting to release all of the drawings at the same time means the first ones have to wait for the rest to be complete. And if there is an error on the first one, it might get repeated on the subsequent ones because it wasn’t discovered sooner.  Smaller batches can be applied in many areas: requirements release, design reviews, testing, documentation, etc. Once again, fast feedback (or early learning!) is key.

  6. Hand over project planning to the team

    When the teams who are doing the work make the detailed plans, the plans are not only more accurate, but the team members believe them and buy-in to the schedule. This also gives the project manager more time to focus on resource management and identifying issues and roadblocks.

  7. Limit workloads to 70%

    When team members are over-booked, they revert to bad habits like multitasking to get through their work day, slowing projects down and impairing their ability to deliver.  Book team members to 70% and you will not only see faster projects, but happier teams!

  8. Use shared project buffers

    Most people add padding to the schedule with the good intent of making sure they have extra time to get things done, and therefore don't over promise and under deliver. What they don’t realize is that due to Student . Syndrome (people don’t work on things until right before it’s due) and Parkinson’s Law (work fills up to take the amount of time allotted), their safe, padded schedule will actually take longer! The remedy is to have people give “best case” estimates for task durations, and then add a buffer to the project that is shared by everyone. This keeps the sense of urgency high, and motivates people to be done on time so they aren’t the ones that consume the buffer!

Playbook supports all of these principles and more. Don't hesitate to get a demonstration of Playbook and get 2016 off to the right start.

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