In previous articles we defined an element of lean as a phase and gate structure for new product development. This assumes a waterfall approach to the project (versus agile product development).
A new product life cycle phase gate structure might entail, for example: “Definition, Concept, Design, Verification, Qualification, Production and End-of-Life”. (Your organization might decide on different phase names.)
There’s an apparent contradiction in using a waterfall project approach and calling it lean project management, however. A goal of any lean process is to work toward ‘single piece’ or continuous flow: agile product development is more like ‘single piece flow’ of information, versus waterfall which is more like ‘batch processing’ of information.
Even so, let’s explore how a waterfall phase-gate structure for new product development can enable a lean approach for certain types of projects or project management organizations:
Remember that we’re investing work-effort into project governance to enable more valuable projects to be completed faster. This is also a cultural enabler; project governance can enable leadership and empower and recognize teamwork.
Also note the above enablers don’t necessarily slow things down. If constraints prohibit agile product development processes, scrum or sprints might still be employed where possible (ie a hybrid model).
Alternatively, project sponsors may choose to limit risk with strict governance and prevent the team from moving into the next development phase until the current phase is complete. This may slow things down, of course, but reduce risk….(speed vs. risk).
Meanwhile, even if you have an existing phase and gate framework, there are likely many opportunities to take advantage of the above enablers and improve overall project/program management for your enterprise.