How Lean Management Can Improve Productivity In Outsourced Teams

Maren Hogan
7 min readNov 25, 2020


Originating from Japan, Lean was originally created for manufacturing and was later adopted by American manufacturing companies. Having found success and effectiveness in its implementation, the core Lean principles were then adopted by other industries such as construction, financial services, project management, and healthcare.

For software solutions development, Lean has an excellent management framework that aims to streamline the entire development process. Lean has also been adopted for software development management processes and has led to the market for lean management software tools. Software like Kanbanchi for the G Suite and Microsoft Dynamics development platform for Microsoft Dynamics developer show some of the tangible effects of Lean management.

There are several types of Lean project management methodology, such as Lean Six Sigma (DMEDI), Deming Cycle (PDCA), and Kanban.

Lean Six Sigma

Lean Six Sigma is the management approach to reducing project resource waste. This management approach covers 5 phases: Define, Measure, Explore, Develop, and Implement.

  • Define and outline the scope, goals, and value of the project for customers.
  • Measure success and qualify progress for the project.
  • Explore ways to improve the process by completing the projects.
  • Develop a detailed consumer-centric plan for the project.
  • Implement the developed plan.

Deming Cycle

Developed by W. Edwards, the Deming Cycle covers 4 phases (PDCA) to achieve results. PDCA stands for Plan, Do, Check, and Act.

  • Plan and analyze the core customer problem.
  • Do develop solutions geared towards addressing the problem.
  • Check the effectiveness and improvements made to developed solutions.
  • Act and implement changes to developed solutions.

This type of management is most applicable to recurring projects, such as phased software solution development.


Kanban, Japanese for “card” or “visual signal.” Kanban utilizes visual management tools to enable better team communication and streamline project workflow. This approach enables the project team and stakeholders to be clear on the project, its goals, timeline, and expected output. There are numerous software project management tools available in the market, such as Kanbanchi, Lean Kit, Trello, and YouTrack.


There are 5 main principles of Lean management, namely, Identifying Value, Mapping Value Stream (MVS), Develop Flow, Establishing Pull System, and Continuous Improvement.

Identify Value

Identifying value focuses on meeting customer needs more than the stated requirements for the project. Value is found in the quality of the solution provided to the identified customer problems, it refers to the output of the project, and is what customers pay for. Identifying value requires the project team to understand and identify project goals, objectives, deliverables, and baseline criteria for assessing the product.

This principle requires constant communication to ensure adherence to established goals and deliverables, as well as clarification on the details and potential conflicts for the project. An effective value identification can lead to:

  • Improved customer relationships
  • Increased consumer satisfaction
  • Reduce risks and wasted project resources

Map the Value Streams

The goal for this stage is to develop a Value Stream Map (VSM). A VSM provides visualization of the steps to be taken to complete the work from start to finish. It presents the flow of resources from suppliers to consumers, such as from ideation to actual software solutions for software developers and their consumers.

Developing a VSM may include steps not necessarily identified as a deliverable for a task by the consumer but are identified to be necessary to ensure high-quality end products, like routine quality assurance. A VSM enables the project team to visualize the project areas that need to be optimized or improved. This will also help reduce project waste and provide a clear picture of overall progress.

Develop Flow

Developing workflow for the project ensures that the team streamlines the project and manages the interrupts to the workflow. Developing a workflow reduces interruptions, waiting times, or blockades through your project. A key step to streamlining the work is to eliminate or significantly reduce activities that lead to wasted project resources.

Project resource wastes refer to steps or activities that consume project resources but do not add value to the overall process. There are 7 major Wastes of Lean management are Transportation, Overprocessing, Defects, Overproduction, Motion, and Waiting.

Establish Pull System

A pull system for a project would be a pipeline for the queue of activities or tasks to be completed. This ensures that tasks are addressed when they need to be and are completed before starting others. This approach improves the efficiency and predictability of the project workflow and reduces project waste build-up.

A typical pull system example for a development project is the To-Do, In Progress, Done pipeline. Tasks that are still to be accomplished are queued in the To-Do lane, tasks that are currently being worked on are In Progress, while those that are completed are in the Done lane.

Having this system established for each member of the team ensures a streamlined workflow. From a high-level perspective, having this system in place shows the progress of the project and can provide insight as to the timeline for completion of the project.

Continuous Improvement

Establishing the previous 4 principles is essential, but is not the end of the process. Having the structure in place and continue using the system, enables the team to better understand, execute, and optimize project implementation processes. The more the system is used the better the steps and principles are implemented and the better the team leverages the system to be better at their work. Teams improve the more the system is used over time.


Streamlining, efficiency, and reducing project waste are the major goals for the core principles for the implementation of Lean management processes. These are great goals and are what project teams and stakeholders strive for in a project.

There are tangible benefits to the implementation of Lean management:

  • Reduced lean and turnaround timelines
  • Decreased operational (inventory, storage) and overall costs
  • Reduced project resource waste
  • Increased efficiency and productivity
  • Improved consumer-focused product quality
  • Increased customer satisfaction.


Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) Cycle

The PDCA cycle is an essential lean management tool that has 4 main stages — Plan, Do, Check, and Act. The PDCA cycle is a framework for iteratively executing the steps of implementing tasks, testing the developed solution, analyzing the results of said testing, and utilizing the results to better plan and improve the process. This enables software development teams to test solutions and deliverables on any scale in a controlled setup and reduces recurring issues or mistakes.

Kanban for Lean Management

Kanban is one of the most widely used workflow management frameworks today. Tools such as Kanban G Suite integration, Jira, and Trello are among the most popular Kanban integration tools available in the market.

Kanban promotes visualizing and improving the workflow to increase efficiency and productivity. Its core principles are:

  • Start with current tasks
  • Implement small but incremental changes
  • Recognize established processes, roles, and responsibilities
  • Empowerment at all organizational levels

In practice, Kaban is implemented through:

  1. Workflow visualization
  2. Work-in-progress limits establishment
  3. Workflow management over people management
  4. Clear process policy establishment
  5. Feedback mechanism implementation
  6. Collaborative growth

Kaizen and Kairyo

Kaizen and Kairyo establish a framework for continuous improvement on 2 levels, continuous self-development (Kaizen), and continuous team/organizational improvement (Kairyo). This approach shows that continuous self-development efforts of each team member will impact and lead to the continuous improvement of the team/organization.

Gemba Walk

Gemba walk is applying the principle of “observing work” as it is being conducted at the place it is conducted. Simply, it refers to improving the work process in real-time in its current environment. This checklist or questions should aim to better observe and understand the process being reviewed. A basic checklist could be:

  1. What tasks or activities were completed yesterday?
  2. What are the tasks or activities to be worked on today?
  3. What are the tasks or activities expected to be completed today?
  4. What were the challenges encountered during yesterday’s work?
  5. What were the solutions to the problems encountered?
  6. What was the cause of the challenges encountered?


Lean has been proven to be an effective project management tool and has even led to tools and other methods derived from it. Implementation of Lean management is even more achievable with the numerous Lean-focused project management tools. Lean management is more accessible with Tools like Microsoft Dynamics and Kanban G Suite integration tools.

Outsourcing projects require effective project management tools and methods to be successful and sustainable. Modern Lean management tools and methods make outsourcing more streamlined and more convenient for the project team and stakeholders. Implementing Lean software development management processes lead to:

  • Improved product quality
  • Reduced project development timeline
  • Reduced operational costs
  • Decrease project waste

By Guest Author: Anastasia Stefanuk:

Anastasia Stefanuk is a passionate writer and Information Technology enthusiast. She works as a Content Manager at Mobilunity, a provider of dedicated development teams around the globe. Anastasia keeps abreast of the latest news in all areas of technology, Agile project management, and software product growth hacking, at the same time sharing her experience online to help tech startups and companies to be up-to-date.

This article was originally published on the Red Branch Media blog by Anastasia Stefanuk.



Maren Hogan

Chief Marketing Brain of @RedBranch Media. I help folks in recruiting, talent acquisition and HR, figure out marketing, community and social. #TBEX #TChat