Delivering more with less – How to (successfully) run a lean project

If there’s one thing the recession has taught us it’s that every business must run as ‘lean’ as possible.

In these cash-struck times, the basic premise of lean – creating more value in delivering client projects using fewer resources – has never been a more attractive prospect.

In project-oriented organisations where people-related costs are far and away the biggest outgoing, it is difficult to cut out the fat without leaving the business exposed. The well-established just-in-time strategies of the manufacturer have to be translated into a ‘just-enough’ strategy for resourcing, so that projects are delivered on time and to budget.

Successfully implemented, the lean approach leads to a winning combination of outcomes: better managed projects, greater client satisfaction, reduced cost to the business and importantly, greater long-term business viability.

Here, we look at the key pointers that are fundamental to developing a leaner business without putting projects and client relationships at risk…

  1. Don’t keep recreating the wheel – build on previous experience to save time, reduce administration, and improve the accuracy of your quotations. When setting up new projects, use previously entered information and apply previously established rules, processes and templates.
  2. Have clearly defined project plans – assign key responsibilities so everyone knows what they’re doing. Ensure any actions discussed as a team have a named ‘owner’, responsible for carrying them out.
  3. Measure and review throughout the project cycle – but do this in a way that does not in itself consume time and hinder progress, for example by automating the flow of information from remote teams back into the business.
  4. Eliminate bottlenecks – use the technology available to streamline essential processes such as workflow management, timesheet recording, expense claims, time and expense approvals, and billing.
  5. Trust and empower your team – an open book approach increases accountability and helps win their support in the drive to increase efficiency and identify where time could be better spent.
  6. Gain a ‘helicopter’ view of your whole project portfolio – being able to view the big picture but also zoom in on the underlying detail leads to better management and strengthens your ability to avert risk.

This article is taken from the IRIS ProjectMinder whitepaper: ‘Running lean: How project-oriented organisations are creating more value with fewer resources‘. The guide is free and available to download in full here.

About the author: Paul Sparkes is Product Director at IRIS ProjectMinder, the ideal web-based project management solution for architects, engineers, surveyors, IT & management consultants, marketing agencies, and other time-based project centric organisations