I find myself going through similar motions in the beginning stages of project planning. Our team has submitted CPM schedules per owner’s requirements and have moved on to selecting contractors. This is starting off as the typical construction process so far. To break the cycle, our team has committed to implementing the Last Planner System on this project. It’s exciting for myself because our team members have experience using LPS. It’s exciting because our team has support from operations and executive level management.
As we select contractors for the first phases of this project, we will be sending out pull plan invitations. I begin to craft the invitation and become distracted. My mind recalls the pull plans I’ve facilitated in the past. I am inspired to pull out the composition books and review notes, plus/deltas, and comments from past pull planning sessions. Even though each pull session involved different people, activities, and milestones, they had one thing in common: the deltas, the negative aspects of the pull sessions that people shared. Why did these pull sessions have similar comments to improve upon? After asking why 4 more times and becoming insecure about my ability to facilitate a pull plan, an improvement plan revealed itself. I had written down the deltas from previous sessions. I realized that I was using them as an excuse to evaluate why the pull session had not been effective. Deltas are intended to be used as opportunities to improve and NOT as excuses for failure.
Below are tips to set your next pull session up for success based on lessons learned from a variety of pull planning sessions.
1. You need a better invitation and agenda for your pull planning session
Keep in mind that the contractors attending need to know why, what, and how the session will be structured. Describe the milestone the team will pull from in detail. Describe the area names or phases where work will be taking place. Set the expectation that trade’s foreman will develop activities and plan the work that they know and understand.
2. You need a facilitator, not a dictator
Ask more questions. Remember that pull planning requires collaboration between people to discuss handoffs and promises of work. If your facilitator tries to dictate activities, it may result in contractors always agreeing and lead to an unreliable plan. A good facilitator should always ask the right questions to flush out value-added activities based on the needs of other trades. Make sure to recognize and address their expectations for the promise or handoff. People have different perceptions and assumptions. A good facilitator will ensure that all parties have a common understanding.
3. You need to abandon the calendar dates
Only ask for durations of work for the activity, and leave it at that. This allows your team to focus on sequencing work in a way that is best for each other and the project. Explain to the team that during the make ready process of LPS, the pull plan activities will be evaluated for what can be done, leading to a more predictable start date.
4. Leave the team wanting more
You asked experts in their field to come together and create a plan. Everyone is excited and looking forward to executing the plan they’ve created. Do not let the pull plan disappear, display it in the big room, daily huddle areas, and anywhere else trades conduct LPS planning. Empower the trades to take ownership of their plan. Tell them what is next. Be transparent about what metrics the project is using to keep score. Show them what happens when people take ownership of constraints to remove them. Let them know that their accomplishments will be celebrated. Explain the benefits and expectations of the make ready and weekly work planning processes. Make sure everyone understands the “why” of the LPS. Ask each other to commit to the LPS and ensure that team members know they have support.
Most project teams are vulnerable to reverting back to dictating how the work will be completed. The pull plans are often forgotten as the pains of day to day issues create chaos. My hopes are that the actions described above will help your team utilize the pull plan to execute the other processes of LPS. What actions have your project teams taken to ensure the pull plans are utilized throughout the construction process? Please share your thoughts in the comment field below.