As lean concepts find their way into project-based companies, it is worth reviewing the basics. The aim of lean project management (LPM) is to reduce the amount of time required to complete a project by identifying and eliminating non-value added tasks. This means that the client (customer) is interested in successful completion on time while the project managers are focused on staying within budget. The key here is that quality of work is not compromised and neither is customer satisfaction.
One of the most important steps in any lean initiative is to evaluate current performance (or putting together a current state value stream map). To do so, the following steps can be followed:
- Review recently completed projects. This can be done by type of project picking a type with most opportunities.
- Identify tasks, with time spent, as follows:
- Value-adding tasks (remember – client is only paying for these tasks)
- Tasks adding no value but still needed (e.g. administrative).
- Tasks adding no value and can be eliminated from future projects.
- Create metrics (ratios using cost or time are recommended) to track progress with future projects.
- Eliminate tasks adding no value.
- For those adding no value but still needed, opportunities for more efficient ways to complete should be sought.
- For value-adding tasks, investigate (using root cause analysis) all bottlenecks, sources of delays and rework (corrections).
- Apply improvements
As an example, let’s consider this typical construction project in which the following milestones are listed: Scope, Estimate, Design, Permits, Tender, Construction, and Closure. Under each milestone are a number of tasks / subtasks. For example, under “Tender”, we could have the following tasks and duration (days):
|Tender Task List||Duration
|Identify and qualify potential contractors||20||12|
|Issue tender documentation||5||5|
|Review tenders after receipt||5||3|
|Conduct interview with acceptable tenders||10||5|
Although the above tasks are considered non-value adding activities, they are still important for the completion of the project. However, it may still be possible to remove pure waste at the subtask level as we improve the process. For example, after analyzing the task of “identify and qualify potential contractors” for a number of completed projects, it was estimated that the team had four meetings (2-hour each meeting on average). With four employees on the team, this multiplies quickly. Based on such analysis, the team could estimate improved figures for “future state.”
Out of this task list, it is possible to remove pure waste and improve the process of “Tender” by streamlining and standardizing steps. Based on such analysis, “future state” figures for such tasks are estimated. In this case, there is a potential for reducing the duration for the “Tender” task list by 15 days (or 37.5%) in future projects. Other task lists can be investigated in a similar manner.
The vision (future state map) should be based on all possible improvements. Potential savings are estimated from hours / days that could be eliminated. As new projects are completed, they become “Current State” and actual improvements can be measured against estimated ones. Ideally, completed new projects should have no waste with regard to schedule and budget. In reality, however, there is always room for improvement. But without going back and analyzing completed projects, determining wasteful activities, and planning for process improvements, it wouldn’t be possible to establish current and future state value-stream maps.