It is helpful to think of implementing a Lean culture and Lean practices on the project as the work necessary to radically improve the professional fitness and health of the project team.

Lean project teams, like athletes, need to be thinking in terms of training every day. That’s why athletic analogies can be helpful in understanding what it means to embrace Lean project management.

Here are two sentences from an athletic training post (the full post can be read here):

  • Working out is a random approach to fitness without any direction toward specific goals; show up at the gym, do a bunch of work and cross your fingers that results will appear tomorrow.
  • Training is a carefully crafted fitness plan targeted at specific results; you go to the gym, precisely carry out your trusted training program and the results follow.

The post goes on to identify six red flags that you are working out and not training. I’ll follow each with its project work counterpart.

  1. You decide what to do when you get to the gym. You decide what to do when you arrive at the project site or project office.
  2. Practicing muscle confusion by unplanned variation. Avoiding rehearsal and repetition of Lean skills until they are mastered, by cherry-picking Lean tools to be applied.
  3. Lack of muscle progression. Repeating the same approach to the work, without any regard toward progressing to higher levels of performance and broadening skill sets.
  4. Lone wolf training. Avoiding feedback that challenges you to identify and work on opportunities for improvement you would not otherwise see on your own.
  5. Quantity over quality. You get caught up in working harder and longer to address problems rather than slowing down to think about how to improve the quality of the work.
  6. Workout to eat. You hope adopting Lean processes in some areas of the project will offset poor practices in others, rather than optimize work across the entire project.

It is vital we take a training mindset to the project every day if we are to realize the quality of work life and work results a Lean project management system offers.