“A relentless barrage of ‘whys’ is the best way to prepare your mind to pierce the clouded veil of thinking caused by the status quo. Use it often.”
~ Shigeo Shingo, cofounder of the Toyota Production System (on which Lean is built)
With a laser-like focus on eliminating waste through continuous improvement, it’s easy to see why lean project management has caught on even outside its manufacturing origins.
Today, lean has become one of the leading styles of project management across software development, marketing, manufacturing, and more. Companies ranging from Intel to John Deere to Nike have implemented lean manufacturing and seen powerful results.
Because the lean approach takes a different approach than traditional methods, some conventional project management software solutions aren’t a great fit.
So, to help you find the best lean project management software for your agency’s needs, we’ve collected six excellent options to consider.
With Teamwork.com, you can quickly engage in value stream mapping, laying out your workflows in multiple easy-to-read formats. You can identify issues with the process flow, like inventory and backlog issues, unnecessary task switching, waiting, and more.
By identifying and clearing bottlenecks, you’ll shrink those lead times, and your team members will get more done during every product development initiative.
With these types of waste removed, you’ll be better positioned to create flow and establish a pull system. And where you identify work process inefficiencies and points prone to error, you can engage in continuous improvement.
Across all the five main principles of lean project management, Teamwork.com equips your project team to succeed.
Teamwork Spaces and Chat facilitate clear communication, supporting continuous improvement and flow.
Project planning tools make value streams and project flows visible, keeping everyone focused on the right tasks at the right time.
Easy-to-use workflow management tools reduce waste and increase efficiency.
Workload and resource management tools help you better manage daily capacity and plan future projects easily and efficiently.
Time and budget tracking tools help managers monitor spend and identify possible areas of waste/inefficiency.
Teamwork.com offers a free tier (up to five users) as well as three paid tiers: Starter ($5.99/user/month), Deliver ($9.99/user/month), and Grow ($19.99/user/month).
Process improvement is important in every project, but especially in lean, as it’s one of the core lean principles. TRACtion is all about process improvement, which makes it a (nearly) perfect lean project management tool.
It’s a powerful tool for organizing team activities, optimizing processes, and driving continuous improvement throughout the project lifecycle.
TRACtion’s focus on process improvement and a lean approach can even help you succeed professionally. A good handle on improving processes is one key to becoming a successful project manager.
TRACtion includes built-in tools for continuous improvement, and there’s also an eLearning component that provides just-in-time micro-learning. Problem-solving roadmaps help you push process improvement even further, and this platform includes pre-built, customizable roadmaps to get you started.
There’s just one downside to TRACtion, and it’s a big one: price. With a first-year minimum cost of $20,000, many smaller agencies are immediately priced out.
Dashboards keep all your key performance indicators (KPIs), metrics, and project data visible and accessible.
Adaptable workflows let you modify your problem-solving approach as needed.
Support for A3, PDCA, QI, DMAIC, DCDOV, DMADV, and DMEDI keeps you moving forward.
TRACtion charges a one-time $10,000 setup fee, plus annual costs that start at $10,000. Those prices get you ten “power user” seats (think champions, sponsors, team leads).
While those prices do seem steep, one upside is that TRACtion doesn’t charge by the user, so unlimited “normal users” can access the cloud-based project management software.
SafetyCulture, formerly known as iAuditor, makes learning Lean Six Sigma a little bit simpler. It’s a beginner-friendly tool that helps you start making improvements quickly, even as you continue developing your Lean Six Sigma knowledge and capabilities.
As the previous name suggests, SafetyCulture started out as an inspection and reporting tool. Its ability to build workflows and assign tasks came later. As a result, it’s not the most robust project management solution on this list. But it’s built well for organizations following lean principles.
If you’re committed to lean and your project management needs aren’t all that complex, SafetyCulture is worth a look — especially if you also need a tool for inspections and reporting.
Actions help you create flow by mapping out processes and assigning follow-ups to keep work moving.
Inspections allow you to convert paper checklists and spreadsheets into smart digital forms, helping you identify value and map the value stream.
Custom reports help you continue improving processes and outputs, reducing waste.
SafetyCulture Premium costs $24/user/month, billed annually. There’s also a free plan that could work well for small teams (ten and under) who don’t need guest access, analytics, or integrations.
Zenhub is a project management tool built specifically for software project management. It’s designed to integrate directly with GitHub, and it’s built around an approach that includes project managers, developers, and product owners.
That means Zenhub is not the right software for everyone. If you’re in a creative or manufacturing industry, other options on this list will serve you better.
But if you’re in software (or you serve those who are), Zenhub is powerful. One big reason is how Zenhub operates directly in GitHub, letting developers keep work where they want it, even as project managers track it.
Customizable pipelines and views allow you to set up lean projects how you need them to run, and powerful product roadmapping tools keep teams focused on value.
Populate Kanban boards in real time using data from GitHub.
Workflow automation helps you create flow and establish pull.
Agile reports and insights help agencies engage in continuous improvement and better map the value stream.
Zenhub’s cloud-hosted software project management solution costs $8.33/user/month when billed annually. Custom-priced enterprise customers can choose between cloud or on-premise.
Like Zenhub, Linear is designed for modern software development teams. It’s helpful for reducing waste by streamlining issues and mapping the value stream with effective product roadmaps.
Linear is also a beautiful app. In an industry where productivity reigns supreme, the attention to graphical and design detail here is a breath of fresh air.
But don’t let that focus on design fool you. Linear is also well-designed from a functionality and UX perspective. Issues, cycles, roadmaps, backlog — they’re all here. And the Projects module gives context to all of them, giving you the tools you need to organize larger projects and products.
Keyboard shortcuts for everything keep you focused and in the flow.
The global command line menu lets you execute faster and with more precision.
Issue tracking with automated backlog establishes pull and helps drive continuous improvement.
Standard pricing for Linear is $8/user/month. Plus pricing, geared toward organizations with 50+ users, is $14/user/month. The free plan is broadly functional but limited to 250 active issues.
Airtable might be the most flexible project management software of all. The experience is what you make it to be. At its core, Airtable is an ultra-powerful spreadsheet-based tool (kind of like everything you wish Microsoft Excel could be, and more).
But on top of that core, Airtable gives you near-limitless options. Teams can build no-code and low-code applications within Airtable to do, show, plan, and analyze just about anything.
This open-ended approach is both the best and the worst thing about Airtable. If you have a vision for what you want Airtable to be, you can create it without much difficulty. But if you’re looking for a lean solution that just works out of the box, you’ll likely be frustrated by Airtable’s “build it yourself” approach.
Data modeling gives you deeper insights and makes your data more actionable.
Product roadmaps keep teams focused on the value stream and help create flow.
A large template library gets you started faster rather than building custom apps from scratch.
Airtable offers a Team tier at $20/seat/month and a Business tier at $45/seat/month (both billed annually). The Free tier is an option for only the smallest teams.
Implement lean methodology with Teamwork.com
The lean project management methodology focuses on increasing customer value by reducing waste, creating efficient workflows, and committing to continuous improvement.
Implementing this approach is a mindset shift. But with the right project management software in place, you’ll quickly identify places where lean thinking can cut down on waste and rework, which will ultimately help you reach milestones and complete deliverables on time or even ahead of schedule.
Teamwork.com offers incredibly detailed visibility into project work, so you can tailor your agile project management process into a true lean approach. With tools to support clear communication, a focus on customer value and project flow, and improved workflow management, Teamwork.com delivers what lean teams need.