This post follows on from my previous post about the “5 Levels of the Last Planner® System1 (LPS)” which provides a very brief overview of the LPS2. By using the following tips, a team is more likely to efficiently and effectively use the 5 levels of the LPS. Slipping back to old behaviours and routines happens regularly. These tips can also be used as a guide for setting team ground rules. However, it is important that every team develops, agrees, and reviews their own ground rules through consensus. Ground rules that are created and agreed by the team are more likely to stick and is one way of aligning everyone to the desired team behaviours.
1. Send meeting invitations with clear goals out at least five days before every session
Last Planners are better prepared when clear goals and objectives (purpose) for the session are understood by the team. It also keeps them focused when there is a preset agenda to follow. The team can use a parking lot (flipchart) for items out of the session’s scope. For pre-planned sessions, five days notice is a good guideline. However, where dynamic sessions are required ensure that the purpose is clearly articulated at the start to keep everyone focused.
2. Start and finish on time
People vote with their feet. Respect people’s time and they are more likely to engage in the session. Think about it, if you cannot start or finish a meeting on time, how can you ensure that you will meet the project’s milestones.
3. Discourage personal electronic devices
Personal electronic devices can distract people from the main agenda of the meeting. Encourage the team to focus on production planning and control only. Focused meetings are quicker for everyone. The importance of the meeting must be emphasized by the leaders – answering phone calls/emails does not send the right message to the team that the sessions are important and require everyone’s focus and attention.
4. Use pre-agreed and pre-prepared activity tags
Agree the format of the activity tags from the start. The format should capture the data that the team needs i.e. activity, predecessor, constraint, duration of activity, location, crew size etc. Modify the format as the sessions progress if required but agree any changes as a team. Maximise the time for collaboration during the meetings by creating the activity tags in advance. Figure 1 illustrates a sample tag.
Figure 1: Sample activity tag (courtesy of The ReAlignment Group of California)
5. Use the 8 Flows as a trigger to screen tasks for constraints2
The LPS incorporates a look ahead window with a process known as “make ready”. This requires looking ahead at what is planned but also screening every activity against the 8 Flows. This makes the activity “ready” and shields the activity against known constraints. This ensures that the activities going into the make ready schedule are ready to be executed. Do not start any task(s) that you should not or cannot complete. Commit to perform only those tasks that are properly defined, sound, sequenced and sized. Sound means that constraints have been removed. The 8 Flows will act as a trigger to identify the constraints and are detailed in Figure 3.
Figure 2: The 8 Flows of lean construction (Source: Christine Pasquire)
6. Empower Last Planners to say “no” or “yes, if...”
Last Planners® must be empowered to say no if they feel they cannot commit to starting and finishing an activity within the required timeframe. Any doubt whatsoever must be raised immediately. Saying no is normally perceived as bad news. However, bad news early is always good news and is much better than bad news later on. The Last Planner may be able to say “yes, I can if ...” rather than just “no”. This allows the team to re-plan as necessary and work together to find an alternative solution before the activity can affect the schedule.
It is important that every Last Planner writes, places, and moves their own tags (Post-its®). Everyone must understand that each tag they write is their personal promise to the team. No tag can be moved without approval from the owner of the tag - just like the electrician would not move work already in place by the plumber. Figure 4 shows Last Planners creating the make ready schedule and moving their own tags.
Figure 3: The 8 Flows of lean construction (Source: Christine Pasquire)
7. Emphasize systems thinking
LPS is a system based on five key levels of production planning and control: should; can; will; did; and learn. It is important that all elements are used and the team recognises any slip back to old behaviours2 – the elastic band effect...
8. Ask WHY, not WHO
Production planning and control should take place in an environment that supports systems thinking. This means that “rank” must be left at the door so everyone can speak freely. When commitments are missed use the 5 Whys Analysis technique to identify the root cause and never point the finger. Ask why with a smile in a curious tone rather than with a frown and angry voice.
9. Continuously record and trend PPC and RMC
Percentage of Promises Completed (PPC) and Reasons for Missed Commitments (RMC) are important metrics to capture and trend. PPC reflects how reliable a team’s planning and execution functions are, and how well the team is working together.
RMC on the other hand tracks the variance of the missed commitments and identifies categories of improvement to eliminate reoccurrence of a constraint. It may not be possible to plan every detail but it is possible to never make the same mistake twice if the team learns from it3. A team’s RMC list should be specific to them. Use reasons related to the 8 Flows as a base to create a variance list.
10. Rotate the facilitator once the team is competent with the LPS
Build empathy for the role of the LPS facilitator by rotating it between team members. However, ensure that the team is consistent in their approach to all 5 levels of the LPS before rotating the facilitator.
The LPS is a socio-technical tool and produces remarkable results when used properly. The tips in this blog post can help teams sustain a successful approach to LPS, generate their own ground rules, and take ownership of the schedules they create. The next post will focus on the make ready process and how the 8 Flows can be utilised in this process.
1. The Last Planner® System and Last Planner® are registered trademarks of Lean Construction Institute. See www.leanconstruction.org
2. Paul Ebbs (2016). 5 Levels of the Last Planner System. Lean Construction Blog.
3. Glenn Ballard and Iris Tommelein (2016). Current Process Benchmark for the Last Planner System.