Lean Methodology: how to make our projects more efficient


14 May 2015

Historically, in any industry or market, ways are sought out to improve the efficiency of business processes; these often include strategies to increase profitability, which is one of the key aspects for assessing the health of an organization. This post addresses how Lean Methodology can be useful to applying that efficiency to processes beyond those on a production line.

The goal of the Lean manufacturing philosophy is to add value to client deliverables as efficiently as possible. It is based on principles that seek to reduce waste (downtime, unnecessary tasks, etc.), to pursue continuous improvement, and to use learning as a mechanism to make the process more efficient. This methodology applies the Pareto Rule, wherein 20% of product characteristics (the minimum viable product) are likely to deliver 80% of the benefits sought by the customer.

It requires making use of monitoring, measurement and continuous learning, which enable fast (to rapidly detect any possible errors) and inexpensive (before high impact is produced) judgments. The aim is to carry out an early and adequate intervention, in order to enhance rapid cycles of testing, in the pursuit of learning and continuous improvement. Thus, in Lean philosophy, learning is enhanced using structured forms of work such as regular meetings to identify and report deviations, minimize disruptions, standardize the most frequent responses in a customer service channel, etc.

Although the methodology was originally applied particularly to industry-oriented production processes, such as chains of production or supply, increasingly, lean principles are being applied to other sectors, including development consulting, IT development, customer service industries, sales departments, etc. All projects that comprise processes, human resources, and materials are subject to optimization and the application of Lean Project Management.

Obviously, for the philosophy to be successful, you have to be internally supported by all levels within the organization – from management to all the other partners involved. In fact, one of the objectives of Lean methodology is for the team to function as a whole, encouraging autonomy, while enhancing the contributions of each element for its optimization within the entire ensemble. Concerns about the motivation of the team, training, the correct understanding of their role in the project, and alignment with their personal expectations are also recognized in this philosophy, which acknowledges and highlights the importance of the management team in the efficient development of projects.

Its main principles are:

  1. Delivering value to the customer.
  2. Eliminating higher quality waste = efficiency of the value chain.
  3. Linking with collaborators = sense of belonging.
  4. Constant learning = continuous improvement.

In addition to the commitment to rapid testing, learning and error cycles, Lean innovation enables the accumulation of knowledge at a rapid pace by teams that, in turn, through the most efficient and optimized channels can and should be shared within the organization.

Two of the most fundamental questions that we should ask when we want to evaluate a process is whether it is solving any problem and if it is contributing the value that it should.

How does one increase the efficiency of a team? Does a client really need to be provided with a daily/weekly performance report? At Territorio creativo, the objective of the team is to deliver expected value to our clients in the most efficient way possible.

Here are the main steps for the development of a pilot application of Lean methodology to a project in an organization like Tc:

  • Diagnosis: an audit project, analyzing all existing processes and defining the value proposition for the customer.
  • Identification of areas/levers for improvement: to define areas for improvement for a project, according to the “waste areas” identified.
  • Defining objectives: the objective levers of optimization should be detailed in specific objectives.
  • Measurement indicators: each of the areas for improvement should be accompanied by their performance indicators, and the monitoring should be conducted as often as necessary.
  • Implementation of methodology: changes to the defined processes in each area of ​​improvement should be implemented over a sufficient period of time in order to draw a conclusion regarding the application of the methodology.
  • Comparison of results: at the end of the pilot, the current status of the project should be compared to the initial status, evaluating all process indicators to assess whether it has reached a higher level of efficiency.

Assessing how processes can be optimized in the identification of processes/resources does not provide the required value or act as barriers to this delivery; we must understand customer needs – i.e. what is expected, what is needed, and what is valued, and question it continuously, knowing that there is room for continuous improvement and knowing that customers’ needs change.

Moreover, the cost of an equipment overload can also have negative effects on projects, since the separation of collaborators may be considered a form of “waste.” We must not forget to assess whether what we are producing exceeds customer expectations (basic characteristics, not related to value, that meet the benefits that they seek, as was reflected in the Pareto Law approach discussed at the beginning of this post) and how that “over-delivery” could affect the team.

The global analysis of all aspects related to projects (customer expectations, processes, human and material resources, waste, etc.) is essential when we approach the implementation of Lean principles in our organization, to improve its efficiency, which comes into being, as we pursue the goal of profitability.


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