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5 ways the lean methodology can help organizations compete

Lean methodology is becoming more popular every year. The most obvious benefit of lean project management is the reduction in cost. But lean has so much more to offer companies than just savings.

What makes lean special? Lean project management is a framework born out of a high-risk industry: manufacturing. Manufacturers can’t afford to waste time or money. Failing to meet deadlines can spell death for them. The lean methodology addresses this problem, helping companies reduce waste by promoting communication, cooperation, and a culture of continual improvement.

The benefits don’t end there, either. Here are 5 ways the lean project management methodology can help your company:

1. Lean eliminates waste

The entire goal of lean project management is to reduce waste. The lean methodology was developed in the manufacturing industry, an industry where unnecessary waste or unanticipated delays can result in catastrophic (and costly) consequences.

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Programmers work at the Maluuba Inc. office in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, on Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2015. Several leading Canadian researchers and professors have defected to U.S. tech companies such as Google. Already members of the country's AI community are trying to protect what they helped build. A startup called Maluuba, which makes technology that helps computers talk, is opening a research office in Montreal; the University of Toronto has opened a startup accelerator and this fall launched a program dedicated to AI research. Photographer: James MacDonald/Bloomberg

Lean project managers cut down on any and all waste, making it their primary objective to streamline every step, every process along the way, in order to save time and money.

2. Lean promotes communication

In order for waste to be reduced in earnest, everyone involved in the project must regularly be communicating. If communication breaks down, lean projects break down with it.

Lean project managers must map out every single step to ensure every process flows as efficiently as possible. For this to be possible, everyone on the team must be open to sharing important information.

3. Lean promotes cooperation

Since every team member must be communicating consistently, openly, and honestly, lean teams only survive through cooperating with one another. The spirit of cooperation, mutual responsibility, and transparency run through the entire organization.

Lean project managers demand a lot of their teams, but they do not require anything outlandish as long as team members adopt a cooperative attitude.

Communication and cooperation, which are really the cornerstones of lean management, greatly facilitate the entire project and the company as a whole.

4. Lean promotes improvement

Lean project managers espouse the importance of small, continual change toward improvement. Lean projects are iterative, occurring over short cycles rather than a long linear passage.

Value is defined (as a product, a deliverable, or some other metric), a series of steps to produce that value is laid out, then the value-creating steps occur in a tight sequence. Then, this cycle is repeated, only this time with added analysis that served to reduce inefficiencies and improve the overall quality.

5. Lean emphasizes a data-centric approach

Lean project managers set up a system whereby their end product is “pulled” rather than “pushed.” In traditional manufacturing settings, the end product is ordered in bulk and then pushed onto suppliers, retailers, and consumer. Lean takes a different approach. End products are “pulled,” meaning that lean products are produced on the basis of demand rather than the anticipation of it.

In order for a lean team to assess what the demand is, they must have extensive data on the target market and the target consumer.

In addition, identifying and mapping value requires a lot of relevant data to be collected and processed. For processes to be efficient, you must have information about every aspect of your project, company processes, and the processes of others that you rely on (e.g. business relationships, suppliers, and so on).

Lean therefore promotes a data-centric approach, relying on data to come to conclusions rather than intuition alone.

Conclusion

The cultural ramifications of integrating lean are myriad and almost entirely beneficial for growth-focused companies. For companies that wish to scale but absolutely need to reduce waste to do so, lean is a great fit.

Lean can help your company become one that fosters communication and collaboration. Your company can drive toward continual improvement, using creative problem-solving in conjunction with data-centric critical thinking.

Lean is an iterative process. A lean team will cycle through a short series of tasks, attacking a complex problem in bursts rather than sprinting through a marathon. By sectioning the project into discrete, digestible portions, the team is more able to adapt and respond to rapid changes or unexpected delays.

Empower your employees by adopting the lean approach. Strengthen your organization by identifying and delivering value through effective lean project management strategies.

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