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Elyssa Pallai

VP Marketing

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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Lean Management

Elyssa Pallai- 05/21/19 03:21 PM

It's always a good thing to remind ourselves of the basics -- efficient development processes come from the foundation of Lean management!

Lean management focuses on minimizing waste to maximize flow and productivity. In other words, Lean is a process and a set of principles for optimizing the throughput of a system.

What is the history of Lean Management?

The precursor to Lean management is the Toyota Production System (TPS), which focused on respect for people, making work visible, continuous improvement (Kaizen), long-term planning and active problem solving.

The result was better products, delivered faster, with greater consistency at a lower cost--that met customer needs.

Lean management principles

From TPS, Lean management principles were developed to improve product development. Here are the core principles of Lean.

  1. Identify Value

    Value is defined as something the customer is willing to pay for. Therefore, the elimination of internal steps and processes that don’t increase customer value are opportunities for improvement.

  2. Create flow

    A fundamental principle of Lean management is smooth, continuous flow. This is achieved by eliminating turbulence caused when the flow through any process is stopped. This can be because the resource is overloaded, offline, or not available for some reason. Such interruptions reduce flow and decrease throughput of the system.

    Critical steps in maintaining flow include making work visible, minimizing queues and constraining the Work in Progress (WIP).

    Visual management is critical because it (obviously) allows you to see the work.  When work is visible, it's then possible to see the queues so that you can eliminate them and keep the work flowing.

    Managing Work in Progress is important because systems loaded at a high capacity have very long cycle times. By effectively managing and constraining the WIP you can reduce loading and increase throughput.

  3. Prioritize tasks

    Every day the team isn't working on the correct priorities extends the project one day. While this delay seems small at first, they build up over time and exponentially extend the project. By ensuring the team is working on the right thing at the right time, a continuous state of flow is maintained.

  4. Establish Pull

    Pull systems have many benefits over push systems. They naturally reduce multitasking and manage WIP. And when they are used in conjunction with prioritization of work, they ensure the resource is always doing the most important thing. This not only maintains a high level of throughput, it increases the value of the work that is getting done as well.

  5. Continuous Improvement

    In Lean, the primary goal is to constantly improve the system. Fortunately there are many proven improvement opportunities for companies that are in the early stages of their Lean journey.

    Once you have made the work visible, you can implement standup meetings that provide fast feedback and enable the team to clear blockages. A good step after that is to implement decentralized planning by getting feedback from the people that will actually do the work. This makes the plans more accurate and it increases buy-in from the team. But don’t forget, this is product development so plans change. So it’s important to implement a rolling wave planning process where you make updates based on progress, and add new details for the next two weeks. Planning ensures that everyone on the team has correct priorities and the progress is never stalled. In other words, maintain a steady state of flow to optimize throughput!


Implementing Lean management can be a sea change in organizational approach to product development, but the results are worth the effort!


Want to know more about the cause of project delays? Watch this video.

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