Lean Project Startup

Lean Project Startup

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Dennis Ross:
Successful diplomacy is an alignment of objectives and means.”

Problem – Need a Lean Project Startup Process

When executing a project, members the project team are sometimes confused about the real purpose of their project.Lean Project Startup However, they continue to move forward and focus on “doing the thing right” rather than questioning whether they are “doing the right thing”. Moreover, it can be difficult to identify all teams that will be impacted by a project then engage them correctly. Consequently, during execution, this confusion can cause the project team to request support from other teams at very short notice. In addition, this ongoing confusion about the project’s purpose and support teams, can result in the project team entering the execution phase of a project before they have completed the discovery phase.

Ideal State for a Lean Project Startup Process

The ideal state is a clear and agreed purpose for each project coupled with a commitment from all stakeholders to support the project plan prior to starting the execution phase of that project.

Root Cause

Lean Project RoadmapThe root cause is the absence of a disciplined project startup process that enforces “value alignment” and “organizational alignment” prior to commencing project execution. Value alignment ensures all stakeholders agree; the purpose of the project, the value that is expected and how that value will be measured. Organizational alignment ensures all impacted teams understand their role and responsibilities and are committed to support the timeline as a “just-in-time” supplier.

Context for a Lean Project Startup Process

Value alignment and organizational alignment are critical success factors for any project. These two processes can identify and eliminate projects that will not add any strategic value and can also identify and eliminate projects that the organization is not able to execute effectively. Project success rates can therefore be improved by ensuring the project team has achieved both value alignment and organizational alignment prior to entering the project’s execution phase. One way to enforce this, is for the project’s funding authority to demand answers to a number of questions prior to granting funding for the execution phase of a project. These questions should include:

Lean Project Startup

1. Why are we doing this project?

2. Can we do this project?

To answer the first question, the project team must understand the project’s expected value and its link to at least one key strategic objective. For example, the project should improve a key strategic indicator, such as customer satisfaction or a financial metric. Alternatively, the project should improve a use case for a key project actor, such as a customer, a distributor, a business partner, a supplier, a business group, a process, or a system.

To answer the second question, the project team must understand the project’s tasks, their dependencies and the optimal sequence of these tasks. The optimal sequence will maximize risk reduction and minimize waste at each step. Some of these tasks are dependent on support organizations who must be engaged to execute those tasks just-in-time. These support organizations include impacted business groups, application teams, shared services and governance organizations. All impacted groups and the project team must be willing and able to execute their tasks as specified in the project plan.

Solution for a Lean Project Startup Process

The purpose of the “Lean Project Startup” process is to answer the questions: Why are we doing this project? and Can we execute this project efficiently? Lean Project StartupLean Project Roadmap

The first goal of the Lean Project Startup process is to capture the project’s value proposition in a way that can be easily understood by both technical and non-technical stakeholders. This can be achieved by creating a single page “infographic” that depicts the expected value with few words. This will literally get everyone on the same page. This infographic should be a conceptual visualization of the current state and future state. Moreover, it should clearly depict the improvement between the current and future states and the difference should visualize the value proposition.

The second goal of the Lean Project Startup process is to concisely define a problem worth solving and the solution approach. The “problem solution fit” template helps organize this information. It summarizes the vision, problem solved, and the “value hypothesis”. The value hypothesis states how the project will add value by improving at least one use case for the main beneficiary of the project.

The third goal of the Lean Project Startup process is to quantify the project’s benefits. It defines the project’s beneficiaries in the form of personas. It also specifies the features that comprise the next release and quantifies the benefits for each feature. The “product market fit” template helps organize this information. It summarizes key personas in the target market, quantifies their value hypothesis for the upcoming release, then swags the financial benefits.

The fourth goal of the Lean Project Startup process is to depict the future state architecture for the proposed solution. This should be a one page, high level, contextual diagram that illustrates the logical relationship among the high level technical components of the solution. This helps identify the impacted systems, application teams and business groups.

Lean Project Startup

The fifth goal of the Lean Project Startup process is to depict the roll out plan for the sequence of high level value propositions. This one page product roadmap is a “forward schedule of value“. You should have a longer term vision that summarizes the high level product roadmap for a number of years. You should also have a shorter term product roadmap that specifies your more detailed value propositions for the next few quarters.

The sixth goal of the Lean Project Startup process is the release plan that depicts the high level schedule, illustrates key project milestones and identifies key project activities. The seventh goal is to identify and engage key members of the project team and clarify their roles and responsibilities in a RACI. The eighth goal is to specify the financial plan. You should organize this plan to be consistent with the best practices of your financial planning group. You can then organize the Lean Project Startup information into a “pitch deck” to request funding for the project’s execution phase. This “lean project pitch deck” will demonstrate value alignment and organizational alignment and will present a lower risk justification for project funding.

Your Feedback

Enter your comments below so we can update this post and provide better solutions for the community. Also, if you have created any project management tools or templates that you would like to contribute for communal use then please send each one, with a brief description, to PMTools@LeanProjectPlaybook.com.

Product Market Fit - Opportunity

Business Opportunity

There is an opportunity to systematize the lean project startup process for organizations. Let us know if you would like to collaborate as a part of our community to transform this opportunity into an easy-to-use solution that will help assure project value and improve project failure rates.

Alternatively, if your company is willing to contribute some of your time to help specify a solution to meet their specific needs then they will receive free licensing for an agreed period of time. Each project requires a project manager, an architect, a business analyst, a developer and a QA lead.
Lean Project Roadmap

Simple Life Lesson

Azim Jamal & Brian Tracy:When in doubt, check if your actions are aligned with your purpose.”

Before you commit substantial time and resources to a personal project, you should ask yourself is it worth doing and can you follow through. This is the equivalent of seeking value alignment and organizational alignment. To avoid waste and disappointment, you should ensure you have the resources to succeed or select an alternative project that offers you a higher probability for success. Select when to risk everything shooting for the starts and when to settle for a lower risk profit. Sometimes it is better to achieve a lower value success than experience a higher value failure.

Lean Project Roadmap

Innovation Incubator

  • Are you tired of using the same old Project Management tools and techniques and getting the same unacceptable results?
  • Have you developed a project management tool or technique that has improved the performance of your projects?
  • Is your organization interested in trialing innovative project management tools and techniques?

Contact us to list a project management tool that you have developed or to trial of any of the following innovations:

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