Lean vs Traditional Project Management

This week, we have Mary Poppendieck with us. She held an evening seminar which inspired me to think about the differences between Lean and traditional project management. I also am inspired by the questions I get from my spouse on this.

I thought that it would be interesting to do a side-by-side comparison between the two. I am no process expert, I am just a programmer who has been the subject of 30 years of different processes. I have seen DOD 2167, RUP, PROPS, PEJL, XP, Scrum and a few others. So this is just my humble opinion.

See also what Henrik Kniberg wrote earlier in his blog.

Aspect Traditional Project Lean Comment
Deliver A final artifact Continuously The purpose of a project is to deliver something, such as the next version of a system. Then it ends and there is a new project.
Team Staff up each project Keep teams together The problem of finding the right people to a project stems from the natural resistance to split working groups and thus you can not pick people as you like. Teams that stay together grow better on working together.
Constraints Manage schedule Manage scope Traditionally, we try to staff up and finance a given scope. Lean tries to identify the customer value behind the scope and change scope to fit the constraints of time and cost.
Control Milestones Transparency Projects use milestones to follow up on progress and through that and other means of status reporting, control the project. Lean values transparency such as Scrum boards with burn down charts to show progress.
Focus Follow plan Customer value In practice, projects tend to be focused on deliver according to plan, as this is the measure of success to them. Lean is all about getting out customer value no matter what the plan was.
Learning Between Projects Constant improvement There is no room for learning during a project, you may do that between projects. Learning probably deviates from the original plan, you see. Lean demands you to improve all the time.

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