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