Project management LEAN process

Toyota’s LEAN process provides a blueprint for successful project management

Toyota’s LEAN process provides a blueprint for successful project management

Project management LEAN process

Designing the process is the most valuable driver of the project

A few years ago, I learned about The Toyota Way, the codified methodology employed by one of the world’s leading car manufacturers. This entailed speeding their process, building quality into systems, eliminating costs associated with waste and sustaining a cultural mindset for continuous improvement.  When amplified to consider the complete value stream, this process is referred to as LEAN - the “secret sauce” that maintains Toyota’s speed to market and exemplary profit margins.

Doing things right

Successful project management has been defined traditionally as doing two things right: delivering on time and staying on budget. However, today’s design and construction market require project managers to execute transformative ideas with the same kind of expediency and exactness in order to help clients achieve a competitive advantage.

LEAN - Process

The healthcare construction industry has well-established organizational, operational and contractual structures for implementing LEAN. These initiatives focus on removing non-value-add steps, facilitating flow and working to establish a cadence that matches production to need in order to minimize delay and waste. When considering a design/construction project work plan, LEAN manifests itself in a few ways. It focuses on continuous improvement: defining value, inviting the right expertise at formative stages, guiding the process for making well-informed decisions, working efficiently as a team, and executing in the field. No project is too large or small to benefit from the rigor of and clarity of purpose that LEAN offers.

LEAN - Design

At WRNS Studio, we continually seek ways to practice the key principles of LEAN in service of design that delivers on economic, social, and environmental performance goals. Research is integral to our launch—we engage in critical inquiry, disciplining ourselves to avoid presuming we have the right answers (just better questions), and learning from previous projects. In the world of expediency and exactness, design explorations may be perceived as antithetical to traditional project success metrics. Therefore, designing a process in which this exploration is tied to value—especially when transformative work is expected—is perhaps our most important responsibility.

LEAN - Practice

Dynamic calendar of time and resources implementing the LEAN process.
Lilian Asperin, Partner & Architect at WRNS Studio, using a dynamic calendar of time and resources implementing the LEAN process.

 

The key to realizing successful LEAN delivery is an engaged and collaborative team.

Dynamic Calendar - Develop a visual map of time and resources – keep it analog! Identify key deliverables and engage with the entire team to arrive at (and commit to) a sequence or flow for the work. Carve out time to iterate and space to think.

 

Gathering, Synthesis and Reporting - Structure efforts with three distinct parts, all of which build upon each other. Share progress with your extended team to build accountability regarding inclusivity with stakeholders and fidelity to decisions made so that the next steps can then follow.

Doing the right things

It’s exciting to think about evolving the concept of project management to one of process leadership. As we move forward in our delivery of projects that realize the highest value and efficiency, it is important to define value holistically.  Assembling teams comprised of talent across disciplines, encouraging staff to enjoy fulfilling lives via flexible schedules (which we can build into the dynamic calendar), and evolving criteria for project success and methodology are imperatives!

We'd love to hear if and how you've applied the LEAN process and principles in successfully managing your projects. Share your experience in the comments.

 

Guest blog by Lilian Asperin, AIA, LEED AP, BD+C Partner at WRNS Studio, San Francisco


Project management skills to help you transcend borders when working abroad

Project Management Skills to Transcend Borders When Working Abroad

You'll translate a lot more than words when you work internationally

For as global as we’ve become in this day and age, there are still big changes you have to face when you work abroad especially when it comes to customs, language, currency, and other pieces of local life.

This doesn’t have to be overwhelming. A little extra prep before you arrive can enhance both your project and your time spent on international ground.

With that in mind, here’s a list of tips to keep handy when you’re project managing abroad:

  1. Engage with your new team immediately

If you can, choose team members in the new country before the start of the actual project. If you don’t get to choose, at least familiarize yourself with names and job titles beforehand.

The best way to do this is to visit the new country in advance of the project and hold a team meeting. This way you can set expectations, whether they’re around maintaining the project budget or ensuring the project site meets governmental or environmental regulations.

If you alone are “the team,” it’s still useful to learn who else will be working on the site and connect with them.

  1. Get familiar with local customs and culture

Find out what’s normal in your new culture’s business. Understand dress code, the most acceptable greetings, and subtle changes like whether or not to small talk at meetings and how you address others in the room when it’s time to make a decision.

Learn the language — or at least the basics. These signals respect to your team and colleagues since you took the time to learn some of their language, and it’s also just practical. Nowadays, apps and other software programs will walk you through basic greetings and questions, and even help you practice speaking the words.

  1. Adjust your thinking to local metrics, currency, and time

It’s crucial to understand local currency. If the budget is in something other than U.S. dollars, get a currency converting app so you can translate the numbers in real time — which you’ll probably have to do at more than one meeting.

Same goes for measuring systems. Do the drawings for the new site use the metric or imperial system? If it’s metric, do you know how to quickly convert meters to feet?

Also, be aware of time differences. Your smartphone’s clock feature makes it easy to see the time in just about any place in the world, so use it as a resource if you’re unsure what time it is back home; you don’t want to schedule a meeting that lands in the middle of the night for someone else.

  1. Be picky about your technology.

Technology can make working abroad easier, but there’s a right and wrong way to use it.

For example, with video conferencing, sound quality is an issue anywhere; it can get worse when there’s a language barrier in play, so ask yourself if a meeting really warrants video. Meanwhile, social media messaging and other forms of text-based communication are also tricky when they start crossing cultural boundaries; words easily get lost in translation — literally — and can slow a project down.

Everyone on the project — back home and abroad — should use the same cloud-based collaboration tools, to cut down on confusion. Microsoft, Google, and IBM all offer their own productivity platforms. Find one that best serves every country involved in the project. Here’s another good resource for online collaboration tools.

Preparing for international work is a bit like packing a bag: you’ll need certain things for certain settings, and planning ahead is the best way to ensure you haven’t missed something you might need. The extra prep could also save you the frustration of an unwelcome surprise at the last minute. If you’re lucky, your thoroughness may even get you closer to an earlier completion date or reduced budget.

How do you prepare for work on international projects? Share your thoughts below.

 

 

 

 

 


6 Strategies To Integrate Technology Into Your Project Management Process

6 Strategies To Integrate Technology Into Your Project Management Process

Technology can’t save your project— but these tips can help you work better

by Nick Suarez, Sr. Project Manager

How often do you create a great project plan, but fall short when the time comes to keep track of all the moving pieces?

Managing projects with only a calendar and a pen can be difficult even for the best project manager. With the help of tools like Smartsheets and Plan Grid, I was able to manage my time, communicate with clients, vendors, and contractors, and store all of my documents in one location.

Still, just having the tool isn’t enough: you have to create processes and workflows that include these tools in a meaningful way. These six strategies can help you merge your existing work methods with a few of the tools I’ve found most useful so you can finish projects on time and within budget.

Use Conditional Formatting

Many project management platforms will automatically highlight tasks in yellow (due soon) or red (overdue), so you can quickly see what you need to focus on next.

Set up Reminders and Alerts

Even if you’re not the forgetful type, reminders can keep you on track by bringing tasks that need to be completed soon to your attention.

Incorporate a Client/Vendor Dashboard

We all know how important it is to keep clients and vendors in the know. Instead of sending frequent update emails, many types of software let you automatically update them in one central location.

Take Advantage of a Centralized Repository

Instead of having documents scattered across your computer’s hard drive, upload them into your project management platform so you have everything all in one place.

Pull Data From Your Email

Connecting your project management software to your email inbox helps you keep track of all project communication in one place.

Stay on Top of Your Budget

The Bridge Group LLC, San Francisco, commercial project construction management, real estate services, facilities consulting, owner’s representativeFinancial reporting features make it simple to see how well you’re sticking to your client’s budget without needing to crunch the numbers by hand.

How do you use project management software to keep your projects running smoothly? I’d love to hear your strategies in the comments section!