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Waste Reduction in Project Environment - A Lean View

Dr. Taiichi Ohno identified seven category of waste in manufacturing and production that can be applied to project management, to make project environment Leaner. Overproduction, Waiting, Transportation, excess inventory, excess motion, non-value-added processing and defects are the seven categories of waste in Lean manufacturing. Here is a brief translation of  7 categories of waste in project management environment, especially in multi-project environment or/and project management system of systems:

1- Overproduction in project environment happens:

  • when a task is assigned to a resource before the task is available!
  • or when a task is assigned to a resource because the resource is available and not because the task needs to be performed.
  • or doing a task as part of the project, but in fact it is not part of delivering the value of the project.
2- Waiting in project environment is one of those killers;
  • when a task is half way through, and a resource is pulled away to work on another task at the same time, the first task experiences waste in time as it waits or it is idle for the resource to perform other task. (inefficient multi-tasking)
  • when a predecessor tasks completes it's work, but it dose not get passed to successor. Therefore Successor experience waste by waiting for its hand off. (kinda No-Early-Work-Transfers)
3- Transportation waste can be translated into project environment as;
  • when wrong or unnecessary dependencies are in project schedule, one task should start only after the input of its predecessor task arrives, however that input is not really necessary.
  • when a review that generates looping back or rework is later in the process than it should be.
4- Excess Inventory in a project environment is;
  • when too much work is in progress (high level of WIP), and organization can not process them effectively. (this is a result of bad project pipeline management)
  • or when a skilled/limited resource is reserved for a task more than the actual time that is required for that task to be completed.
5- Excess emotion occurs in project environment;
  • when time has been put on a task that it is not really needed to be completed for the project or it is not needed for the task to be finished to create value.
  • when  holding onto a task that is complete (keep polishing the output or searching for hand off is all waste)
  • when a task is multitasked, time is required to setting it down or/and picking it up again. Such a time is waste.
6- Non-Value-Added Processing;
  • Adding more reviews and sign offs to deliveries that is not really necessary
  • or when resources are require to accomplish additional tasks within the project that those tasks are not part of the actual project, but are required! (for example, creating tickets/request in multiple systems for different parties to get permission to release/deploy a Web site, or having so many status meetings and reports)
7- Defects may take many forms;
  • wrong, missing an incomplete information (such as incomplete Scope, translating client requirements wrongly to other team members)
  • handing off work when it dose not meet hand off criteria.
What would happen to your projects if you experience less of 4 destructive project behaviors and minimum amount of waste? Simply, everything will be delivered on-time with higher quality!

Now, combine this with a project management framework or methodology such as Critical Chain Management or Scrum and you will get projects delivered even earlier than plan!

Why don't project based organizations reduce 7 wastes? why don't they prevent 4 destructive behaviors? don't they want to deliver projects sooner, faster and with higher quality?!

Because, it is not enough for a Project Based Organization (PBO) to change its mind set alone and expects a dramatic improvement in project delivery. PBO needs to reduce waste and prevent 4 destructive behaviors, and it needs to force its partners and vendors to do the same, and it needs to persuade its clients to do the same, and only then the whole system will be improved!

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