Project Management

Thinking Lean: Lean Projects Are Defined by Lean Behaviors

Lean is a mindset, not a rule set. It is a methodology that emphasizes a constant focus on learning from everything that happens on an everyday basis. Hal Macomber recognizes at his blog that lean means shifting from tools to tool users, and it is the development of people that leads to success with lean. More specifically, Macomber cites four capabilities that can make companies lean as identified by author Steven Spear. The first of these is to design processes in a way that participants in the process see opportunities for learning. Making anomalies and incidents jump out in the process of doing work is a good thing, which leads into the second capability—the anomalies and incidents should be swarmed and dissected. Bring people together quickly at the site of the problem as it occurs in order to get at the root cause and create a learning experience for everyone involved. The information gathered should then be shared immediately and often with relevant parties in the company. The final step then is to foster an environment where your people are encouraged to carry out the other three capabilities themselves, creating a workplace where everyone is always eager to learn and share. For Macomber, the major highlight of lean is this: The big opportunity that lean companies and projects demonstrate is managers-as-teachers. The primary role of anyone that is managing or leading others is to build the competence of the people doing the everyday work. It's not problem-solving. It's not directing the work. It's not checking on others. All that can be done while doing the work. Lean companies put their attention on learning at every chance they can. It's a behavior change. Macomber and lean methodology share the opinion that knowledge is power. The more your people know, the more prepared they are for challenges new and old, and the stronger your organization will be for it.

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