Lean Project Management for Product Development

My last article covered a scalable model for lean product development depending on the number of projects and technical objectives.

Let’s start with the foundational elements from this model:

  • Facilitate a lean project
  • Understand customer needs (requirements validation and/or agile product development)
  • Maximize customer (product) value (product value estimation)

A core team leader / project manager partnership can facilitate these objectives.  The project manager provides the project management discipline and tools while the core team (and core team leader) is responsible for the overall success of the project.

Starting with project management (initiating, planning, executing, monitoring & controlling and closing), as the project progresses through these phases the team’s objective is to balance cost, scope and time while achieving overall good project quality.

Good project quality also means lean project management, where the project is run with minimal waste and customer value is maximized.  This ties-back to the foundational elements listed above.

  1. Establish what “facilitating a lean project” means for your organization.  What can your organization do better to improve the overall efficiency of the resources?  Improve team meetings, meeting attendance, clearly document tasks & assigned resources, clarify project sponsors and team member responsibilities, identify task dependencies, critical path, clarify resource needs, use workshops, scrum and/or sprints?  (Note that a good project manager would generally facilitate a lean project with these things in mind.  Accordingly, the project manager and core team leader should be supported by the team members and project sponsors in their efforts.)
  2. In order to maximize customer value, a product manager would be the team member who ensures customer needs are addressed in product requirements and design.  A core team leader with knowledge of systems engineering,  quality function deployment or agile product development could partner with the product manager accordingly.
  3. Clarifying the business decision is our remaining foundational element, with product value estimation being a high priority.  The market analysis (upstream of the product requirements) substantiates product value and pricing in the products competitive environment.  Here again, the product manager or opportunity champion would be a team member clarifying and championing improvements to product value.

Ensuring resources are efficiently used, ensuring customer needs are understood and a solid basis for the business decision (to develop the product) could be facilitated, monitored and updated as key characteristics of the project.  Also, any of the other elements of the scalable model can be added if needed: resource management, product cost and margin estimation, phase and gate structure, project governance, etc..

Note that a facilitated, team-based approach complements both the project and development process objectives.  Also note a project manager with additional facilitation skill sets (design for six sigma, systems engineering and product life cycle process) can be even more effective ensuring a successful product development team effort.