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The Rules of Lean Project Management: Part 8

Using Lean Project Management Principles to Implement AND Adopt LPM

In my last three blog entries, I addressed some project management issues as they were happening to me, thus postponing my series on the rules of LPM. I continue here to expand my set of “rules”. I will conclude the series with this 8th rule, probably not the last word on this, but the essence of LPM as I see it…for now.

From the start of this series, I wanted to address the issue of implementing LPM. I was unsure how to tackle this, however. Once again, one of Hal Macomber’s most recent blog entries ( provided me with a good angle of attack. I thank him for that and for many other influences (good and bad!) he has had and still has on my thinking and that of the people I coach in adopting LPM best practices and behaviours.

In theis blog entry I’m referring to, Hal writes that implementing successful LPM is not possible by only going through the motions, i.e. use the Last Planner ® system, small promises, rolling wave planning, short recurrent IPECC cycles, extended/integrated project teams etc. It is only possible through “adopting” the collaborative behaviours that make these practises work. It has to do with taking seriously rule No. 4, which is to be considerate to humans and their individual interests to create the will to make a very important cultural change.

I believe that, in order to do that, some kind of chicken-and-egg approach is required. To develop the collaborative behaviours required by LPM (by all project management endeavours, actually), one has to use LPM principles to implement LPM. And this is exactly what I am doing with my clients when getting them to implement and adopt LPM. I have them go through the motions, using these motions to promote the behaviours required.

I use a technique I have called “changeboxing,” in which I apply a mix of LPM principles and a variation of the “timeboxing” techniques used in SW development to make real change come through. And it does come through very fast. Following a proper participative diagnosis and a workshop to promote a common vision of the change to be put in place, the definition of the new LPM process to be implemented is done coaching a team of five to 12 volunteers to develop and implement it themselves. This team represents the ultimate Last Planner ®, the end users of the LPM process (the project teams and main stakeholders). A changebox  takes the form of a fixed duration meeting lasting three to seven hours, with the obligatory requirement to deliver the promise made at the start of the meeting by the end of the same meeting. The deliverable could be a collaborative project definition, planning or follow-up tool, specific parts of the process, some sets of roles and responsibilities, a corporate policy for LPM, mini-guides, etc. One changebox, one deliverable! This deliverable is tried as a prototype by the team members on their own projects for a couple of weeks. Then we initiate a new changebox.  The first part of it used to adjust the previous deliverable for organisation-wide adoption; the second part to produce a new deliverable (promise) by the end of the meeting. The development/prototype implementation/adoption cycle is repeated again and again until the team members decide they do not want any more changes…for now! These same people who develop-implement-adopt are the ones who decide how, when and how much they want to change, based on their individual will to change. We do it this way because, in matters of behaviours (which are intimately linked to individual value and belief systems), nobody else can decide for you, when, how and how much you will change.

Hal concludes his blog entry by writing that to adopt successful LPM, it “takes the determined unwavering examples of leaders. Only that leadership will set the stage for adoption.” I agree; it is a question of leadership, of behavioural leadership in fact, and at two different levels:

  1. upper management must demonstrate “trust” leadership in empowering the ultimate Last Planner ®, the LPM process users, to decide what will be implemented and how, based on the participative diagnosis mentioned above, and
  2. these users must demonstrate “desire to take individual and team responsibility” leadership for adopting successful LPM, They must lead through their collaborative will and decisions to develop together and adopt these practices and behaviours.

So Rule number 8 of 8 of Lean Project Management is: Use Lean Project Management (LPM) principles to implement AND adopt LPM.  Live and use what you preach to implement it; by «walking the talk», you will succeed in increasing the speed and extend of LPM adoption and ensure a lasting and fruitful change.

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