Continuous Improvement

Augmenting the PMO with Lean Thinking

When you care about customer value, reducing waste, and optimizing the use of employee skills, you are thinking lean. The lean methodology can help PMOs self-improve in many ways. In a post at Leading Answers, project leader Mike Griffiths outlines the ways that lean adds value.

Leaner Action

Lean, like its cousin agile, is human-centered. It thus places a high premium on transparency and encouraging relevant parties to get involved in the decision-making process, up and down the chain. It also asks customers to define what value is to them because different people have different ideas on value, and it is important to highlight the differences—especially in a PMO setting. The PMO will need to distinguish what the sponsor values compared to what project teams value and team leads value.

Another tenet of lean is to identify all the steps in the value stream that deliver products/services to customers. The PMO can do this through value stream mapping, which will identify value-adding and non-value-adding tasks and assist the PMO in understanding time constraints.

With this understanding of processes, the PMO can react to the information and establish better flows for how work moves. As a general rule, moving smaller batches faster is safer than bigger batches slower.

After that, the PMO must “implement pull,” which means upstream processes only activate when downstream processes signal the need for them. This is a mode of eliminating waste:

A preferable approach is to spend this effort on getting good at rapidly delivering what is asked for. Then establishing signaling mechanisms so that the need (or imminent need) for a product or service triggers its creation. With a stock pile of zero the next item you get is perfectly made for you rather than the next available.  PMO’s can embrace this principle by providing just in time reviews rather than standard readiness assessments. They can also create, say, charter templates based on project characteristics not boilerplate, also Steering Committee updates based on current questions not standard templates.

With these principles established, the PMO is best positioned to pursue continuous improvement.

Griffiths goes on to articulate in detail how to eliminate “DOWNTIME” in the PMO, which stands for defects, overproduction, waiting, non-utilized talent, transportation, inventory excess, motion waste, and extra processing. For an explanation on how to control each of these individual factors, you can view the original post here:

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