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The Rules of Lean Project Management: Part 6

Opening, Adapting and Closing Often

I continue here to expand my set of “rules” of Lean PM, following Hal Macomber’s comments on my original four rules series in his blog (

Another lean principle Hal said I had left out was the necessity to PDCA everything (the Deming Wheel – Hal notices in his blog that “much has been made of the tools, techniques and methods of lean ways of working. But behind it all is Deming’s (Shewhart’s) Plan – Do – Check – Adjust cycle. It’s the embodiment of the scientific method. No company does it better than Toyota. Make it your habit.” Hal has however revisited the PDCA acronym by replacing the original meaning of the “A” (Act) by Adjust. And I will also revisit, because I believe the PDCA cycle, as stated, does not clearly illustrate what should be project work.

In the current edition of the PMBoK (3rd ed., 2004), PMI also acknowledges the importance of the PDCA cycle in project management, but goes on promoting its own version of it, the IPECC cycle (Initiate, Plan, Execute, Control and Close). There are slight but significant differences between those two cycles, differences that mirror those between recurrent operations and projects:

  • PMI “I” (Initiate) is inherent to projects (they start somewhere), hence not included in the more generic PDCA cycle
  • PMI “P” (Plan) is similar to Deming “P” (Plan)
  • PMI “E” (execute) is similar to Deming “D” (do)
  • PMI first “C” (Control) is equivalent to some extent to Deming “CA” (Check, Act). Continuous improvement in project management requires a special kind of acting to handle major project uncertainties and inherent changes. So for projects, Adapt would be a better word than Act and, I believe, more representative of high-uncertainty projects reality than the word Adjust
  • PMI second “C” (Close) is also inherent to projects (they have to close, while we do not want to close operational business processes), hence also not included in the more generic PDCA cycle. Granted, one could argue that Acting in the case of a project includes Closing it.

Hal said that we had to “PDCA everything.” The word everything is, for me, the key to the Lean PM philosophy and is related to LPM rule No. 2 (Track small concrete promises that you can see evolving over time). Everything, for me, means: each activity, each deliverable (daily and weekly promises/deliverables if you think Lean or Agile PM), each work package, each phase/stage of the project as they evolve.

So I submit that, for projects, we have to IPDCAdC continuously. Initiate, Plan, Do, Check, Adapt and Close everything. Open-Adapt-Close often. Open new work, adapt to change as you do it, and close it to the satisfaction of all stakeholders. And one must not forget that some projects need to be terminated before they are completed, if they cannot deliver what is required; so Close can also mean Stop!

In acknowledgement of Hal’s revisited comment, here’s Rule number 6 of 8 of Lean Project Management: The Open-Adapt-Close Often rule.

Rule No. 6 of LPM. Open-Adapt-Close, Open-Adapt-Close, Open-Adapt-Close… all the time.
The IPECC cycle is a recurring process; this recurrence is the true key to successful projects, lean-influenced or not. In order to close a project, you have to open-adapt-close formally at the phase level, to open-adapt-close formally at the work package level, to open-adapt-close for each required deliverable (small concrete promises), to open-adapt-close each required activity undertaken.

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