Our team was stuck as if we’d been walking through cartoon quicksand. We were individual high performers, but for some reason, our IPD team could not get on the same page when it came to the project schedule. After months of struggling, one of our team members, George LaClaire, offered up leading a session to help us get through it. He called it a “Rocks in the Road” session. That two hour work session to lead to a team Schedule Management Plan agreed to by all and a passion for George, Alex Hesse, and myself to use this tool as often as possible!

So what is Rocks in the Road? At its core, it’s a group-oriented, A3-style process that can be used to identify success and areas of improvement for teams. It reframes the A3 process to make it more approachable, and is an excellent proactive or reactive tool (how can you continue your successes, not just looking for ways to correct failures). It can be implemented by absolutely anyone and used by groups of almost any size. By almost forcing engagement from everyone, it can be used by 5 people or 65 people to tackle any issue or find out how a success can be repeated.

Since this is obviously a tool we all want to use now, how does it work?

Step 1: List Your Successes to Date and Step 2: List Your Obstacles to Date

These will look familiar to the Background, Problem Statement, and Current State sections of an A3. When asking for these successes and obstacles, it’s important to frame the topic your group is trying to work on. For example, our team had issues getting on the same page in terms of schedule. We took these two first steps to review how we’d done well and how we’d struggled. Make sure the successes and obstacles are detailed and clear enough for analysis later.

Step 3: As a Group, Prioritize the Success and Obstacles to Focus On

This is similar to the Problem Statement, Current State, and Target State on an A3. Here is where the group decides together where to spend your time. Are we going to analyze our incredible success in planning three major equipment picks within short range of each other (success) or how no one knew a delivery was planned and it caused a lost day to move stored materials out of the way (obstacle).

Step 4: As a Group/Individual Groups, List all Possible Causes for the Success/Obstacle

The Analysis section of a traditional A3 would contain this information. During step 4, the group or multiple small groups begin utilizing fishbone diagrams, 5 why’s, or other root cause analysis tools to determine why a success or obstacle occurred. In this section, the group shouldn’t focus on why the root cause occurred – only that it occurred. Resist the urge to solve the problem when everyone is still trying to determine what problem needs solving. This step is where the process truly leverages the power of an entire group! A small group of 4 people can tackle an issue, or you can break down into 4 groups of 4 individuals all looking for the root cause of an issue. Being able to scale the tool here by taking smaller chunks and breaking down a large group encourages the point of almost forcing involvement from everyone. Getting that involvement is what brings about consensus and everyone feeling bought into the later-on-determined solutions. Use that power!

Step 5: Prioritize and Focus on Specific Root Causes

Again, this is akin to the Analysis section of an A3. Once the group or groups have determined root causes, each group then needs to determine 1-3 root causes to focus on. This will help keep the group from biting off too much and keeping them focused.

Step 6: Make a List of Possible Actions to Improve/Continue the Situation

The Action Plan and Follow Up sections of an A3 are very similar to this. With each root cause that was selected in Step 5, the group/groups will develop the following:

A Problem Statement

  • An example from our project would be “Not One Schedule to Follow.”
Three Root Causes
  • Ours would read: not all trades’ detailed schedules are in the master schedule, not all companies operate on the same scheduling platform, not all partners have the same level of experience with the Last Planner System (LPS).
Action Plan
  • Write and publish a team Schedule Management Plan that clearly states the process and what is required of each team member.
  • Schedule all planning sessions when key members are available, including the scheduler that keeps up the master scheduler.
  • Ensure staff availability to create/manage tasks from others if scheduling platforms are different.
  • Have a boot camp planning session for all in order to level set the group in terms of LPS skills.
  • Review every PPC weekly and the performance against the master schedule every 2 weeks to determine if the plan is working. If not working at any point, have a Schedule Management Plan team review process to determine issue/action.
  • Be sure to always include follow up actions for PDCA! Just because you’ve come up with a plan doesn’t mean it’s flawless – be sure to go back and review to make sure it’s still working!
With all this being said, experiencing this in action will truly show anyone the value! I know the people I mentioned earlier and I are always up for sharing how the process works and showing how efficient it can be. If you’re looking for how to leverage the power of a group and finding solutions, this is it!

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Alex Gregory is a Preconstruction Manager with GH Phipps in Denver, Colorado. Through his experience, he has gained a strong knowledge of lean tools and worked on multiple IPD and IPD Lite projects. He served several years on various LCI committees and has presented at LCI Congress multiple times.