Lean Management: how the approach can improve IT project efficiency

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To begin with, let’s define Lean.

What is Lean? Several definitions of the concept coexist. The first thing to keep in mind is that the ultimate goal of Lean is to build over the long term. Lean was born in the industrial sector, at Japanese car giant Toyota. The concept was then formalized in the United States in the 1990s, and today has effectively been applied to all industries.

One of the definitions of Lean that can be applied to the IT sector is the following: Lean represents a system which aims to:

  • Satisfy customers as much as possible.
  • Lower costs.
  • Develop employee skills.

These 3 axes are simultaneously strengthened and applied by the Lean approach, even if they may sometimes seem contradictory to each other.

Let’s move on to the inherent characteristics of Lean management.

Lean Management: Characteristics

Characteristic #1: Seek out and achieve complete customer satisfaction. This is the number one priority for Lean management. Lean suggests physically meeting with a customer in order to continuously uncover new ways to create value.

Characteristic #2: Eliminate waste. Lean conceptualizes 3 types of waste, whose names are taken from Japanese:

  • Muda: concerns an activity which doesn’t add value to the project but which is nevertheless tolerated. A Muda represents an activity that is known, frequently practiced but never questioned.
  • Muri: this is an activity or task that is too complex or burdensome to whoever it is tasked to, and which is probably impossible to carry out in its intended form. Muri ultimately presents a threat to the project as a whole.
  • Mura: the Mura represents an anomaly – something that makes the production process unstable, unbalanced and inefficient, like a backlog at a specific point in the production process.

The Lean methodology stipulates that waste must be identified and eliminated.

In Lean, the 7 Mudas to identify are:

  • Overproduction
  • Surplus stocks
  • Over-processing
  • Unnecessary transport
  • Unnecessary movements
  • Waiting time
  • Repeated errors and insufficient quality

Characteristic #3: Problems need to be tackled and resolved aggressively.

Characteristic #4: Do not accept the status quo – constantly strive to improve the project’s efficiency and quality.

Characteristic #5: Constantly monitor and evaluate project indicators in order to verify the impact of improvement actions, and also to motivate the team by providing tangible evidence of progress.

Lean Management and web development

Developing the skills of each team member is very important. Lean relies above all on people before relying on software.

So, develop the human first and before trying to develop the software.

Lean also advocates visual-based management. This allows all members to see, understand and, above all, act together in a more efficient way.

In a web, mobile or software project management context, Lean Management is very effective. It establishes a mentality of continuous improvement among a team, and leads to the creation of products that meet the expectations of end users. Similarly, Lean actively avoids over-processing, which can take the form of too many meetings, too many required validations, etc.

Ultimately, Lean can lighten the entire IT project process while maintaining focus on customer satisfaction and employee development.

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