What is Lean3?
Part 3 of 5 : The Project Factory
Standards were the basis for improvement in Manufacturing
Project Management and Manufacturing have different starting points: automobile makers can standardise cars, but we cannot easily standardise projects. Every project is different.
In 2nd Generation Manufacturing, Ford delivered just one standard product by using a standard process. This was an acceptable compromise at the time. It was the basis for generational change: Mass Production drove huge efficiency gains relative to craft production.
Early automobile manufacturers willingly sacrificed flexibility and introduced standards, because standards enabled huge efficiency gains. But Project Management cannot sacrifice flexibility, so Project Management has failed to standardise and remains inefficient.
1st generation Project Management was craft based
Our ancestors ran projects. Building a pyramid or a cathedral or a canal is a project. Some cathedrals took a century to build, but the final product was – finally – delivered. The project ran to completion, the cathedral stands today. These early Project Managers delivered complex projects; their Project Management methods were linked to their craft skills of design, masonry, carpentry, etc. This was 1st Generation Project Management.
2nd Generation methods – general purpose and monolithic
In the 20th century, Project Management methods were codified into various guides. The most widely used ones are general purpose guides such as PMBoK or Prince2. They generalised lessons from craft project methods.
For example, PMBoK generalised the lessons of civil engineering projects; while Prince2 generalised lessons from IT projects. These guides are monolithic (rather than modular): they seek to provide a 360° integrated approach to Project Management. Certification supports and reinforces their monolithic nature; to pass the exam you need to master the entire guide.
Today’s Project Management provides no effective standards
2nd Generation Project Management is based on guides like PMBok and Prince2. These do not provide any usable, effective standards:
- PMBok is a body of knowledge, which does not attempt to standardise processes
- Prince2 seeks to be a standard, but it is only used in practice after massive simplification
People have tried to get round this problem, but with limited success
- Vertical approaches such as 5D-BIM for the construction industry standardise the product (buildings only), in order to standardise the process.
- Horizontal approaches such as Prince2 include a very high-level standard process, but at such a high-level of generality to be ineffective.
Towards 3rd Generation PM
Today’s 2nd Generation Project Management cannot make the leap that Manufacturing made with Lean Production.
In the absence of effective standards, Project Management is faced with
- custom processes, because we are not able to standardise processes
- custom products, because every project is different
Optimisation is only possible when some standardisation is in place. 3rd Generation Lean Manufacturing is highly optimised. It combines standard processes with custom products.
Project Management needs the same generational change as Manufacturing. It needs some workable, usable standards, as the basis for optimisation.
The Project Factory enables 3rd Generation Project Management
The Project Factory is modelled on the Lean Factory.
The Project Factory industrialises Project Management.
- It introduces standardisation of processes (repeatable procedures)
- It allows for customisation of the products (each project is different)
The Project Factory introduces process standardisation, through the use of reusable procedures; and Project Design, to design the custom product in such a way that it can be produced easily.