Leverage This Period of Uncertainty by Working on Improving the Planning on Your Projects!

Sometime in college, many of us learned that it’s better to develop a good work plan so that project execution can happen smoothly. However, I have found some project teams struggle to find the time to work on project planning, especially if the project is mid-stream and there are multiple project challenges. This is especially the case for projects that “don’t have time to plan” - those are the projects that would likely benefit the most from planning (or even re-planning)!

As regulatory agencies and/or capital project leadership teams have started to temporarily suspend construction projects to help slow down the spread of Covid-19, let's transform this project risk/challenge/problem into an opportunity so project teams can leverage this challenging time. Project teams that are working from home can still meet virtually to develop new strategies or improve existing ones for production system design on their projects. Using the framework of the Last Planner® System as our guide:

Master Planning - Should we re-define hard milestones vs. ones that have more flexibility in light of the impacts of Covid-19? If so, make those adjustments now and empower your project teams including design and trade partners to virtually help develop new work plans or refine existing work plans to respond to the changing conditions of your project.

Phase Pull Planning - Shall we develop new phase pull plans or refine existing phase pull plans now so that we will have a number of realistic work plans ready for our Trade Partners to implement once construction is allowed to resume? Realistic work plans allow our trade partners to mobilize their resources more appropriately. Also, the more practical/realistic the work plan, the more likely our Trade Partners will be able to more implement them reliably!

Make Ready Planning - This one’s a tough one, especially if we rely on procuring equipment and materials from abroad and your projects are in the midst of interior finishes. Do we need to introduce temporary measures and/or workarounds to stay on track with our hard milestones? Shall we take this downtime to improve the definition and/or communication of our project’s quality expectations by clarifying QA/QC protocol through the development and/or improvement of product and process benchmarks?

Weekly Commitment Planning - Do we have a robust weekly process in place to status the work plan, propose promises for the upcoming work week, negotiate those proposed promises, and collaboratively decide which proposed promises are approved to proceed? If not, what adjustment do we need to make to our current weekly process to make it more robust?

Daily Learning - Is the work plan visual and used as a part of our Daily Learning process? If not, what infrastructure (e.g., use of signage to post the current work plan on-site, holding the meeting near a large screen that shows the current work plan) can we put in place so that Daily Learning can spend less time on statusing and more time on problem solving and dealing with exceptions to implementing the current work plan as planned?

As we all emotionally and practically deal with the challenges that the uncertainties associated with Covid-19 have created in our personal and work lives, leverage this time to get in some good short-term planning and strategic long-term planning for your projects! Consider how we can sequence work better, determine whether it is helpful (or not!) to manage multiple critical work flows in parallel, and investigate how trades can handoff work in smaller batches.

Meanwhile, when was the last time your project team assessed or reviewed your project’s risks and opportunities? If it’s been a while, perhaps now is the time to review them, status them, introduce mitigation plans to remove or deal with your project's risks and/or realize your project’s opportunities, and integrate those plans into your project's current work plans? Even better... can your project team members find ways to transform project risks into opportunities as some project team members did in a recent project kickoff meeting that I facilitated (see the photo above)?

Regardless, best of luck to you all in dealing with this period of uncertainty. I hope this article helps you recognize the planning opportunities in this challenging time! Please feel free to reach out to me via PM if you need help to clarify any of the points in this article.

Join me for an upcoming webinar entitled "Stay Calm and Continue Applying Lean During Covid-19" on April 9, 2020

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