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Paul DeLong

Customer Success Manager

Paul is the “the best part of training,” according to PLAYBOOK's clients. Paul hones his lean and agile skills mountain biking where no man has gone before!

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Lean Transformation?: Let's Explore the differences between Lean and Traditional Project Management

Paul DeLong- 08/18/16 04:30 PM

Let’s face it. No one likes change. Lean and Agile transformation isn’t for the weary or weak. It goes way beyond investing in Visual Project Management solutions like PLAYBOOK. It’s a transformation!  It’s a dramatic change in thinking and behavior...

In order for this dramatic shift to be sustainable, buy-in needs to occur at all levels of the organization. If not, well-meaning players can inadvertently, but adversely affect the adoption of Lean. Buy-in only occurs when everyone understands the principles and benefits at a deeper level. Training is necessary.

To demonstrate the cataclysmic shift in thinking and behavior we are talking about, let’s look at some of the dramatic differences in Lean vs. traditional approaches to project management.

Critical chain project management

We’ve written about critical chain project management before.  There are many aspects to critical chain, but one of the differences to a traditional approach is that instead of creating a “safe” schedule and buffering each task, a more aggressive schedule is agreed to. In addition, a single buffer is created that the entire project team manages together.  

Without an understanding of the principles of critical chain, the added buffer gives the impression that the team is continuing to use a traditional approach to scheduling and simply adding an additional safety net. However, when you pull back the covers, the critical chain approach is designed to be a more focused way of working.  Having a shared buffer makes the entire team accountable for their work. And, fundamentally, team members get their tasks done quicker because they aren’t distracted by multitasking and other demands.

When the rationale behind the change is understood, critical chain just makes sense.

Let’s look at another example, the Daily Huddle.

Daily huddle

Without understanding the rationale as to why it’s beneficial to meet daily, management and team members may question the value of daily meetings. However, once their purpose and benefits are clear, meeting daily becomes a no-brainer.

In daily meetings, information is shared - you guessed it - daily. Team members become aware of new issues, risks and threats on an almost real-time basis.  As such, the entire team is better equipped to figure out how to handle these risks and avoid impacts to the project timeline. Often these daily interactions replace the weekly project meeting so there’s no additional time spent in meetings overall.

The overarching benefits of Lean transformation

You can see why understanding the benefits of a new way of working and the principles behind Lean, gives Lean transformation a better chance of success.  We’ve looked deeper into the benefits of some of the principles to demonstrate this point. But what are the overarching benefits of Lean? It varies by role. 

The benefits of Lean for team members

For team members, when done well, Lean and Agile approaches make it really clear what they should be working on.  All tasks are not created equal and team members are given the freedom and ability to work on one task at a time - the one that is the highest priority for moving the project forward. Their priorities become crystal clear and people no longer feel like they’re constantly being pulled in a bunch of different directions.

The benefits of Lean for project managers

For project managers, they are freed up to be more proactive and better manage the outcomes of the project. They have a live schedule, and they are armed with a wealth of information that allows them to manage the project more effectively.

The benefits of Lean for resource managers

For resource managers, resource loading is visible, past, present and future. So resource allocation can be done with the right information at their fingertips. Hiring and moving work to other resources to free up critical resources to work on critical tasks is easily justified.

In addtion, resource managers (and the entire team in general!) get faster projects with more predictable end dates!

Conclusion

Sustainable Lean transformation occurs when the entire company understands Lean and Agile principles, practices and methods.  Investment in software isn’t enough.  Change in behavior is at the core of sustainability in the long run.

What to know the real reason projects are delayed?  It's not what you think. Watch this 9-minute video to find out.

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