Think lean to add value to project delivery

New Thinking 6 June 2016 Damian Brown

In an environment and part of the country where few projects are multi-million dollar efforts, is it really necessary to apply a PRINCE2 or full PMP framework to all of our projects? When the Project Management component starts to become a very large percentage of the project budget, are there alternatives to delivering the project oversight without the need for a full time PM?

I write this as someone who is a PRINCE2 Practitioner, a Certified ScrumMaster and, up until recently, a PMP (Project Management Professional) who has led projects using each of these frameworks/methodologies.

Not many small to medium projects fail because the reporting wasn’t extensive enough, or because the Gantt chart wasn’t updated enough, or because there wasn’t enough process and documentation around how we’re going to execute a project.

More projects fail or are stretched due to budget, lack of communication of the right information in the right way to stakeholders, poor quality (due to a number of factors such as poor requirements, lack of traceability of requirements through to delivery etc.) and a changing environment, meaning some original requirements change and become redundant due to the length of time between business cases and delivery. Communication often becomes the biggest challenger to projects.

There is a school of thought which suggests that a more rigorous process and more documentation is the answer to solving some of these challenges. However, I would suggest that – with the small to medium projects – this does little to reduce the cost or time to deliver. More process and documentation may help people who prefer written communication, but it does not address those who are time poor or prefer verbal communication (yes, there needs to be a mixture of both).

An alternative approach for the smaller to medium projects is to consider using an experienced Business Analyst to provide oversight of the project using Lean techniques for a few reasons:

  • Reduction in overall project cost
  • An analyst usually starts a project with the business case and forges the relationship among stakeholders
  • The relationships with stakeholders are maintained through requirements gathering, analysis work, outlining processes and through to User Acceptance Testing (UAT)
  • It makes some sense to have the person who outlined the project requirements and contributed to the success criteria of the project to also lead and assist with taking – often those same stakeholders – through UAT

Project leadership involves elements of project management, but using lean and/or Agile techniques. We use visual management to provide transparency, encourage daily stand-ups for progress and better communication. We utilise retrospectives for continual improvement and many other techniques such as impact mapping etc. where they add value.

The big focus is on ensuring that value is being delivered throughout the project and that we use a lean approach to focus on delivering what’s really needed, rather than applying excessive process or unnecessary practices that add cost and overheads.

This progressive and fresh approach to delivering projects is working successfully with many of our clients.