How to avoid 5 top lean project management mistakes

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Lean project management is about reducing waste. Lean project managers seek perfection through addressing inefficiencies.

No wonder, then, that lean project management is extremely popular, especially among manufacturers, where risk and costs are high. The approach is somewhat counter intuitive to those who are used to traditional project management frameworks, where rigidity and sparse communication are the norms.

Lean teams are highly collaborative and, as a result, uncommonly efficient. Making missteps with this powerful project management framework is easy.

Here are 5 lean project management mistakes to avoid:

1. Not communicating enough

Communication is the most essential aspect of lean project management. For lean project managers to do their job effectively, every single member of the team must be in constant and direct communication.

Communication is the oil that powers the lean machine. With lean projects, especially lean manufacturing projects, bottlenecks and delays must be avoided at all costs.

Avoiding unnecessary delays is only possible when everyone is communicating. When an issue pops up in an ancillary department or team, it is considered pertinent.

Communicating with every member of the team, and making sure the communication lines are efficient, is critical for value mapping activities and for avoiding unnecessary costs.

2. Failing to hire experienced project managers

Many companies think that hiring star talent alone will ensure success. No matter how talented your team is, they can’t perform well under an inexperienced or overburdened project manager.

Small companies are sometimes tempted to contract inexpensive project managers to help save costs. Unfortunately, this may not be the best strategy in the long run.

Experienced lean project managers understand how to motivate, encourage, and inspire a team. While inexperienced project managers may know all the rules and regulations, experienced project managers understand how to lead effectively, empathetically, and compassionately.

3. Corporate culture clash

It’s tempting to copy the latest project management fad and paste it into your corporate environment. Unfortunately, lean project management isn’t something you can assign a single team to employ.

Lean project management is only effective when it is a natural extension of your company culture. The emphasis on the pursuit of perfection and interdepartmental communication only works when everyone within the company understands the lean mindset.

4. Inability to respond to change

Value streams help streamline lean projects. By defining value and mapping it out, project managers create flow. Every step within the project from the start date to the shipping date is smooth, lacking major time gaps, bottlenecks and delays. Every step seamlessly moves into the other.

Value mapping is not an activity that is performed once, however. Through constant communication and collaboration, the value stream is revisited, tweaked, and revised.

Even the most precise value stream mapping has areas where it can be improved. Also, sometimes mistakes, delays, and missteps happen. In those cases, revisiting the value stream can be beneficial for the project.

5. Not inclusive enough

Lean project management is a management framework that is inherently collaborative. It’s inclusive by nature. Different departments need to be in communication. In addition, team members need to be able to talk honestly and openly. Without honest communication and transparency, lean projects cannot thrive.

Lean projects thrive when managers encourage everyone to give their input, regardless of their rank, title, or experience. Every single member of the team is valued and their input considered.


Success is easy to attain with lean project management principles. However, implementing lean project management principles is by no means easy.

Communication is vital for lean teams to thrive and for the project to survive. Experienced managers must be at the helm to ensure that the team is motivated and guided by an expertly-crafted value stream.

Lean project management requires immense dedication not only from the lean project managers that instill the principles but from the company itself, which must promote a lean way of thinking.

Lean project management also requires the welcoming of change and a culture of inclusiveness and collaborativeness.

Lean project management is becoming more popular outside of manufacturing because of how effective lean project management has proven to be. Still, implementing lean takes some knowledge about common mistakes. Take the top five lean management mistakes into account as you implement your own lean culture.

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