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The Rules of Lean Project Management: Part 4

Humans, humans, humans

This is the fourth and final part of my little series on the rules of Lean Project Management. I wanted to write another on multitasking. But, as for any project, this little series impacted my thinking and my expectations as it evolved. I finally realized that I had outlined the essentials on the foundations of lean project management, other subjects being of a more technical than philosophical nature. Since the intention was to deliver fundamental messages, I just found along the way that the essential deliverables were there and any new one, except a final wrap-up, would add little value at the level of discussion sought.

Lauri Koskela in his landmark article, The underlying theory of project management is obsolete ( says that the current theory of project management, as illustrated in the PMBoK, mostly defines project work as planning; not much is revealed with respect to work as executing. Projects are executed through people….and it just seems we do not know how to communicate this.

In the current theory, much emphasis is given to tools and best practices», what I call the know how to do. By the same token, when we talk about the so-called human skills (apparently these are soft), what I call the know how to be, we only pay lip service to them. This situation is confirmed and dramatized by the findings of Frederic Rodriguez, in his master degree thesis, Are the required best behaviours integrated in project management maturity models? (CESI, Aix-en-Provence, fall 2008 – my translation of the title into English). He found out that only 13 % of the points measured in OPM3 (76 out of the 589 best practices identified in the maturity model) had any link with managing or fostering proper human behaviours. So the answer to Frederic’s question and the conclusion of his thesis is NO!

I know that OPM3 is into its first revision and that there is a big international effort to develop a universal standard on project management (PMI, AFITEP, IPMA and the like all working together on this); I sincerely hope that more consideration will be given to the main resources in projects – humans.

Meanwhile, lean project management principles can really help us in this ill-covered area, as it mainly concerns itself with executing work through humans. Just look at the three rules I laid out previously:

  • Rule 1 – The Last Planner rule – The one who executes the work is the one who plans the work: Expanding the project team means more last planners, the ultimate ones being those who have to materialise the project benefits once the project delivered what it had to. HUMANS PLAN AND EXECUTE PROJECTS
  • Rule 2 – The Track Promises rule – Do not track time (effort) or cost. Track small promises that you can see over time: Expanding the project team means getting each promise made by the last planner who has a stake in it, and can really make it happen. HUMANS ARE THE SOURCE OF PROMISES AND RESULTS
  • Rule 3 – The Expanded Project team rule – Expand the project team to include and integrate all significant stakeholders as part of the team as early as possible.

Many people oppose PMBoK contents to lean project management approaches. I do not believe this is the proper way to look at this. Their focus is different, one promoting mainly best practices, the other calling for best behaviours. These are not opposed; they are two important parts of the same puzzle; they complement each other. However, until we merge them together to propose a better, more complete vision on managing projects successfully, I will continue to extensively promote lean project management and its fundamental proposition, spelt out here in its fourth and ultimate rule, a cry from the heart:

Rule No. 4 of LPM – Humans, Humans, Humans:

  • Humans execute projects.
  • Projects’ deliverables materialize through humans and for them.
  • So be considerate to humans as, without them, no project can be a success.

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