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Lean Grant Project Management

As all grants professionals know, getting the grant is only the beginning. After developing a winning, persuasive proposal, the project must prepare to achieve what it set out to do. This is often difficult for project teams with limited experience and capacity to manage multiple projects. Not to mention, all the unplanned challenges that inevitably come up along the way.


With strategy and organization, projects stay on track, meet goals and have successful outcomes. Lean Six Sigma processes - built around scope, time, cost and quality - can easily be applied throughout any grant's project development, implementation, and management. The following highlights some of the most common Lean processes and tools to use at each stage of the grant.
Project Development. The beginning stages of Lean strategy refine the project development process to ensure a clear vision, goals, objectives and deliverables.
Some tools of use for this phase of the project include:
  • Project Charters: Summarizes and simplifies the project vision, goals, objective, timeline and metrics to keep them top of mind. 
  • Committee Charters: Establishes clear roles and responsibilities for each member of the project team.
  • GANTT: Creates a high-level summary and timeline for the project's primary goals, objectives, and deliverables.
  • SWOT Analysis Tool: Summarizes the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats the project will face along the way to better prepare the team for changes that inevitably occur.
Project Implementation. Lean principles are designed to maintain timelines and work through unexpected challenges that impact project objectives and activities. Lean tools to consider for this phase of the project include:
  • RAILS: Rolling Action Item Lists provide detail on the action items necessary to meet the objectives, who is responsible, the date due, and the deliverable expected for each task.
  • Value Stream Map: Mapping assists when the inevitable “snag” is hit in the project by providing a guided process to understand what was done previously, where the process is going wrong, and where it can be rectified.
  • PDCA: A Plan, To Do, Check and Adjust tool is another method to organize root cause analysis (ask the five “whys” of a problem), identify the issues to be addressed and communicate adjustments to get the project back on track.
Project Management. The intent of Lean is also to streamline processes that result in effective data collection and reporting, a critical piece to any grant project. Some tools of use for this phase of the project include:
  • Project Workbooks: Pre-format Excel workbooks aligned with the funder's reporting requirements to ensure all the data is collected in a centralized place for easier reporting and site audits.
  • Dashboards: Tabulate all data in a monthly summary, or dashboard, within the project workbook to provide ongoing visibility of metrics and whether or not the project is on track to meet its goals.
Making your grant project ‘Lean' drives continuous quality improvement in all parts of a project. This includes a better understanding of program requirements for project team members, improvement of quality and delivery of project activities, reduction of waste, better efficiency and continuous development of robust program processes, all of which result in better project sustainability and impact. Even, a continuous revolution in program development.

Want to be the grant professional who delivers timely coordination and structure for grant-funded projects? Add some Lean principles to your grant manager toolbox and you will continue to demonstrate the value of choosing the grants professional.
S. Kimberly Jones, MAS, GPC is the Director of Community Health Advancement for the Adena Health System, located in the southern, Appalachian region of Ohio.  She is a member of GPA and its Central Ohio Chapter. She will be speaking at the 2018 GPA Conference in Chicago this November on strategic planning. Visit this session to learn more about how to effectively implement some of the tools mentioned in this article. You may reach her with questions at Get more ideas on rural development and capacity building by following her blog, Level Field.