Properly executing the look ahead planning portion of The Last Planner System can ensure your project team is set up for success. This exercise typically occurs during weekly team meetings where teams evaluate what “can” be done over the next 6 to 8 weeks. The goal is for the team to identify constraints, assign responsibility, and commit to resolving them prior to the constraint impacting the activity. This article will offer helpful tips to get the most out of your look ahead planning sessions.
1. Identify the activities
Allow the pull plan to dictate the upcoming activities. Simply, ask trade partners to identify their activities that can be worked on over the next six to eight weeks. Record the activities in the look ahead schedule. This creates start and completion dates to each activity. Most companies use a scheduling program to document the look ahead such as MS Project or P6. There are also some companies that have created web based platforms that allow project teams to manage look ahead schedules. The important thing to remember is teams should allow the look ahead plans to set the dates for the start and completion of activities.
2. Record Constraints
The next step is to evaluate the activities for constraints. Do not ignore this process. Each activity must have certain known information, materials, and available manpower to begin. The illustration below shows most of the items that must be known prior to beginning any construction activity.
This should offer guidance to help teams create a constraint log. If any of the information that the task requires is not known, it is a constraint that could keep the task from beginning as planned. Ask the trade partners to identify any needed information or pre-requisite work that the task requires. This should be recorded on a constraint log. Identifying the responsible person for resolving the issue must be included on the constraint log. If they commit to resolve the issue prior to the start of the activity, then the team is likely to begin and finish the activity on time.
3. Follow Up
Each week, your team should have the look ahead meeting. This is the opportunity to review the constraint log and confirm that each constraint is being worked out by the responsible party. Each team has a different method for recording constraints. Spreadsheets are easily distributed and can be reviewed quickly. White boards displayed in the big room work well also. The key is to be consistent in reviewing the constraint log. When people are asked to speak to their responsibilities, they are more likely to remove the constraint before it impacts the look ahead schedule.
Look ahead planning is vital to any construction schedule. Look ahead meetings should last 45 minutes to 1 hour. All trades that have work being performed on site should be in attendance. By using pull plans to feed look ahead sessions, teams plan with much better detail and set realistic start dates for their activities. This look ahead process also provides the avenue to turn work that “should be” accomplished into work that “can” be accomplished. As constraints are resolved, work activities will roll into trades weekly work plans of what “will” be accomplished.
If your team is new to implementing LPS, following this process to execute look ahead planning will help foster a successful implementation. You can use these tips to help your team stay focused. Feel free to reach out with any questions regarding implementation of LPS. Please share your stories and advice on look ahead planning in the comments section.