Modern project management owes a lot to pioneers in the field of technology. Influenced by engineering industry practices going back as far as the 1940s, today’s popular Agile and Lean project management philosophies were first adopted by software companies, but they now have a far wider reach. Their success can teach us a lot about how to approach our own projects, in any field.
Efficient engineering from Toyota
Whether it’s a business client or a consumer base that you’re trying to please, as a project manager you aim to fulfil the project’s deliverables in the best, most efficient way possible. You want the end result of your project to be a genuinely useful, and usable, product, fulfilling the brief as well as it possibly can. And of course, it goes without saying that you need the work to be completed efficiently, to meet their final project deadline.
Japanese technology company Toyota decided back in the 1940s that in order to cut down on wasted time and resources and deliver truly useful products, it was necessary to adopt a different approach to production. The resulting Toyota Production System focused on reducing wastefulness in every area. It incorporated a philosophy of teamwork and continual improvement, fixing problems as they occur for a more efficient production process.
Get better results, in a shorter time frame: the influence of software development
Software development is a constantly changing practice, with small improvements made on a frequent basis in order to fix bugs and hone the product. The nature of the industry has led many technology companies to abandon traditional project management techniques such as Waterfall, which are too rigid to allow for continual testing throughout the project life cycle. Instead they have adopted an iterative approach to development, using philosophies like Agile and Lean which allow for a more flexible and reactive project management style. Let’s find out a bit more about these philosophies:
Agile and Scrum
- Agile project management is a flexible approach that allows you to work speedily through numerous iterations, honing as you go. It doesn’t require you to set out all your objects at the outset. This may not be suitable if you have clients that want an end result without having to provide endless feedback.
- Scrum project management is one kind of ‘recipe’ or framework to help you adopt an agile approach.
Lean and Kanban
- Lean project management is a cyclical approach that incorporates learn, measure and build phases. Toyota’s super-efficient system is widely seen as a precursor to Lean, which has a similar, waste-reduction philosophy. It’s important to note, though, that operating without much ‘fat’ in reserve may lead to problems if equipment fails or deadlines are missed.
- Kanban project management is a framework for implementing the Lean philosophy.
Following in the footsteps of tech pioneers
One of the main take-aways from the technology industry is that a project management philosophy must match the project. Traditional approaches didn’t fit the process for Toyota, or for software developers, so other frameworks were devised to do the job better. Those frameworks might be right for you, too – but equally, they may not suit your needs. So, rather than following the latest trends and buzzwords, as a project manager you need to find your own fit.
If you’re still unsure which project management style is best for you, learn more on our project management courses