Intro To Lean Transformation in Project Management for Agile Teams


Embarking on a lean transformation journey requires some deep thinking and planning. Even though the concept of lean has been there for a long time now. However, lean transformation in project management is different. 

That is why we’ve gathered here a full guide on the different phases, models, and benefits of lean transformation. 

So, let’s start with understanding what lean transformation is.

What is Lean Transformation?

Lean is to, “Maximize Value by Minimizing Waste”.

Lean transformation is the process of undertaking all the tactical, strategic, and operational improvements in an organization to produce more value for its customers. 

The word “Transformation” literally means a marked change in form, nature, or appearance. Thus, lean transformation is also the change or shift from conventional practices. 

Generally, the word lean transformation is associated with “eliminating waste”. However, that’s not all. On the contrary, the transition towards a holistic approach aid in restoring value and gaining faster processes. This change also brings various changes to the work environment, ethics, or plan. 

What is Lean Transformation in Project Management?


The principles of lean were adopted in project management in the early 2000s. Lean Transformation in project management is reducing wasteful resources, improving efficiency, reducing completion time, and adding value to the overall project.

According to PMI, “To be lean is to provide what is needed when is needed and with the minimum amount of equipment, material, people, and space.”

Thus, lean defines waste as any process that consumes resources but brings no value from the customer’s perspective.

Three common types of waste

The 3M in lean transformation stands for the three common types of waste including:

  • Muda: Activities that consume resources without providing additional value.
  • Muri: Overuse of equipment or employees. 
  • Mura: Operational unevenness that decreases efficiency and productivity in the long run. 

So, lean transformation in project management aims to reduce these 3M’s through its processes. 

What is the Importance of Lean Transformation? 

While managing agile teams and projects, predictability and efficiency are very important. That is what lean is all about. It helps in the continuous improvement of workspaces, people, and processes. 

Moreover, it is also pivotal for the removal of barriers that might inhibit the efficient delivery of value

Benefits of Lean Transformation

Some of the key benefits of lean transformation are:

  • Lower inventory and lower inventory costs.
  • Elimination of wasteful resources
  • Reduction in overall costs
  • Improved productivity and efficiency
  • Increased customer satisfaction
  • Higher quality 

The Lean Transformation Model

Although there is no set model or methodology for lean transformation, there are certain successful shared concepts. 

These include:

  • A value-driven purpose
  • Continuous process improvement
  • Sustainable capability development
  • Lean management system
  • Lean thinking, mindset, assumptions

1. A value-driven purpose

The lean transformation concept bears significant importance to a value-driven purpose. This is something most organizations constantly aim for as well. Thus, any process or objective that doesn’t deliver value to its customers is considered a waste in the lean transformation process.

So, lean value is more about products, processes, and objectives that benefit the customers at all times. 

2. Continuous process improvement

Continuous process improvement is also regarded as an integral part of lean transformation. While working with agile teams, change is predominant to occur. Thus, embracing change and continuously improving your processes is vital. 

Check this out:

10 Top Process Improvement Tools You Need to Create a More Sustainable Business

3. Sustainable capability development 

Capability development is the building and strengthening of the roots of your organization to meet the organization’s needs. Sustainable capability can be achieved by reinforcing your team, encouraging lean transformation, and providing your team with the space to flourish. Moreover, diverse thinking and constructive criticism can also help in the set matter. 

4. Lean management system

Another important concept in a lean transformation is a lean management system. This system is more about sharing goals and working together than telling the teams what to do. 

Therefore, problem-solving is the key motive of the lean management system. Leaders are encouraged to spend more time with their teams to understand them and remove the bottlenecks better.

5. Lean thinking, mindset, assumptions

The successful implementation of lean transformation depends on centralizing lean thinking, mindset and assumptions. Some of the key changes certain to occur are:

  • Internalization of lean thinking
  • Finding ways to add customer value
  • Adaptivity to change 
  • Taking failure as a way of improving in future
  • Using a data-driven approach
  • Having shared goals and collective ideas
  • Promoting transparency

Phases of Lean Transformation


Applying lean principles to project management means staying focused on the value of the customer. Lean transformation goes through various phases, including:

1. Evaluation

It is the first phase of lean transformation. The goal is to show how and where team value can be generated and clarify the overall processes to eliminate unnecessary steps and identify the flaws.

The evaluation phase in lean transformation involves three main aspects

  • Identifying the problem
  • Coming up with potential solutions
  • How to go on about it 

Thus, one must identify the “waste” indicators and find possible solutions to reduce them and maximize customer value. This is an important stage as it helps us to identify the goals and objectives of lean transformation. 

It is better to take things slowly and make small transformations first and then move on to the big ones. So, small improvements, measurements, and repetition of the same cycle are recommended. 

2. Initiation

Once you’re done with the evaluation stage, you’ll move on to the initiation stage. As the name suggests, it is to begin working on the lean transformation. Thus, it involves the following aspects:

  • Getting the senior management on board
  • Making it a long-term strategy 
  • Seek expert help

You lay the foundations of your transformation at this stage. Therefore, it is predominant to get the senior management to buy in the idea and the need to have it. Otherwise, the chances of success are very thin. Thus, there should be a senior member responsible for all the processes of the lean transformation. 

Moreover, once you’ve got the relevant help, commit to it as a long-term strategy. Since it is not only a tricky but an expensive process as well in the name of customers. So, it must be kept on the list of strategic priorities. 

Most of the time organizations don’t require the help of an expert. However, if you feel like there is an agile or lean transformation specialist to execute it properly, it is advised to hire an expert.

No one would want to risk the whole process due to a lack of planning and proper strategies. Thus, hire someone who has been through it to provide you with the best methods. 

3. Training 

Now that you’ve most of your goals and ideas gathered, it’s time to train your team accordingly. Training of lean transformation team is a key prerequisite and essential phase as well.

The training process is a lengthy one and usually requires a lot of money to successfully implement it. However, be not a miser with it, you can cut costs at many other stages. Train your team with the best one in the field to maximize the success rate of lean transformation. 

After all, it’s all about finding the best team to end the race successfully.

4. Tooling

Equip your team with the right tools for implementing a proper training program for them. Some of the major agile/lean tools that could be implemented are:

  • Kanban
  • SAFe
  • Portfolio Kanban
  • Scrum 

These are common agile and lean techniques that can be used. Kanban is a great way to visualize your processes and have a glimpse of the big picture. Such mapping would help you to improve the overall operational efficiency. 

Moreover, scrum helps in breaking down the processes and SAFe (Scaled Agile Framework) is the planning and managing of the workflow patterns.  

5. Analysis and Optimization 

Now that you know the value your customer is seeking to receive and how you’re going to produce it. The next step is ensuring a smooth workflow without any blockages.

This stage includes choosing the right metrics for the proper implementation. Some of the common metrics to set are:

i). Cycle time

One must identify the tentative time needed to complete the cycle. These predictions help to set proper deadlines and assign team tasks accordingly. 

ii). Throughout 

It is to identify the number of processes your team can execute within the set cycle time. 

iii). WIP (Work in progress) 

It includes the tasks that are currently being worked on. Teams can use Kanban boards to view the work in progress and keep a proper track. 

iv). Continuous improvement

A successful lean transformation is dependent on continuous improvement. So, always keep on finding new ways to adapt, evolve and improve your current practices, processes, and structures. 


In conclusion, lean transformation in project management is a great way to deliver better products or services to your customers. Moreover, it is also beneficial in removing costs and optimizing processes. 

Make sure to follow the six phases of lean transformation including evaluation, initiation, training, tooling, analysis and optimization, and continuous improvement to yield better results.

Thus, say no to wasting resources and overly costly projects.


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