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We do not win on the project - we win in pre-construction. The greatest generals in history would win the war before going to battle. This was one of the major concepts presented in the book, The Art of War, by Sun Tzu. It can be helpful to look at construction like war at times. People on construction sites are at war every day. Everything on that project is trying to kill or injure them. The leading edges above 6’-0”, the moving equipment, the cranes, confined spaces, energized systems, and chemicals are all trying to kill our workers. And they need the environment, focus, and flow to have a fighting chance against our true enemy-waste and variation. Waste and variation distract our people so they are not vigilant enough to stay safe in this environment. So, what can we do? We can win the war before going to battle!

The following list of activities will help you and the project team set up a project for success in pre-construction.

The First Planner System

The Plan - The plan precedes all other aspects of the project

· Create production strategy
· Identify constraints (building, Owner, weather, sequence)
· Incorporate contract requirements, division 1 specs, and other Owner requirements into plan
· Identify flow, sequence, and breakout areas of project
· Perform a Takt analysis of major phases of project (Foundations, Structure, Exterior, Interiors)
· Perform a day-to-day geographical/area/sequence analysis for needed areas
· Perform an analysis on bottleneck activities. Consider using production rates from historical data
· Schedule in constraints and support systems in schedule (dry-in, air-on, MEP, etc.)
· Make procurement strategy, add procurement to schedule, and begin procurement meetings weekly
· Consider regional constraints such as weather, permitting, workforce capabilities, etc.
· Review plan with wider team to review safety and quality as a part of the schedule
· Procurement logs up and running & tied to PM system
· Procurement meetings setup for exterior ASAP
· Create a 90-day mobilization and project startup plan
· Begin working on Entitlements and Permitting

People & Teaming - Build the team first!

· Engage project team as soon as possible and have superintendent on board to begin planning early
· Design trailers for collaboration, communication & enjoyment
· Identify roles by role, scope, and geography
· Create leaders standard work for all team members
· Ensure the plan has enough time in the schedule to prevent a crash landing
· Review General Conditions/General Requirements with team before setting the deal
· Identify project logistics foremen
· Preconstruction excellence pull plan with team to get organized as soon as possible
· Create a, "respect for people," plan
· Begin team balance & health strategy

Winning over the Workforce - Win over hearts and minds

· Create plan for onsite bathrooms
· Create plan for onsite lunch room
· Schedule start of morning huddle systems to train & communicate
· Make plan for monthly barbecues, Craft feedback and other workforce events & budget
· Design trailers and interaction areas for worker enjoyment
· Provide workers with 30 minutes in the mornings to setup their day for work
· Provide smoking areas if possible
· Provide good parking if possible
· Provide accessible portable water and ice machines
· Decide to decorate for holiday and make work fun

Contracts & Costs for Culture - Buyout behaviors needed on site

· Modify all attachments to work orders to drive behaviors
· Track all needed contract inclusions for site logistics and operations with estimators
· Buyout coordination efforts that will predict schedule success (In-wall Coordination, BIM, Prefab, etc.)
· Buyout just in time procurement
· Buyout the Last Planner System and lean methodologies
· Ensure items about zero tolerance systems are included in contracts

Schedule Health & Right Detail - Maintain a schedule as a tool

· Detail out all remaining portions of the project
· Enter lift drawings, BIM & other coordination into the plan
· Detail out MEP, Startup, Commissioning, Balancing, LS Testing, & FP Testing
· Review and update schedule for schedule health per checklist
· Identify plan for level of detail to be shown throughout the schedule process
· Setup pull planning sessions to map out detail at the right times

Risk Analysis - Widen the circle and prevent risk by seeing the future

· Maintain a basis of schedule
· Maintain sequence and flow maps
· Get trade partner input and buy in for the schedule when possible
· Use production rates for activities that do not have trade input
· Agree on milestones with wider team & Owner
· Perform schedule risk analysis for proposed baseline
· Hold fresh eyes risk meeting with team
· Establish baseline with Owner
· Establish Owner interface and management strategy

I know what everyone is going to tell me. How are we going to do this? The answer is to strive in that direction. For a project to be set up for success, you need to do the things on our checklist. If you don’t invest the time to set up the project properly, you will spend much more time fixing problems when they arise. You will need the people, the time, and the budgets to do this, but if you do, it will have a drastic impact on the success of the project. Every day spent in pre-con is worth a week in the field-especially when it comes to flow planning and procurement. Remarkable pre-construction=remarkable construction!

Here are a few additional tips:

· Start pre-con as soon as possible
· Build the combined pre-con team health
· Dedicate builders in pre-construction to build the project on paper first
· Build your GCs & GRs and estimate to…
· Have remarkable conditions for workers
· Get enough logistics support to keep the project safe
· Have the right interaction spaces for people to work in an integrated way
· Buyout any lean behaviors and systems in the estimate to remove any roadblocks for full implementation
· Prepare for long lead-time procurement. You will want to start elevators and exterior skin coordination in pre-con on almost every project.
· Always host a fresh eyes meeting before going to GMP

When you have finished this process, the team should end up with the following things to be successful.

· A Takt plan
· Master schedule if required
· Phasing drawings
· Coordinated logistics
· A basis of schedule
· The right overall duration
· Supportive budgets for operational success
· The right team size
· The right trailers and onsite support systems

If you do this, you will be set up for success. If not, you are in for another barn-burner. The single biggest benefit in pre-construction for the schedule and overall project will be the use of Takt Planning to create flow. A Takt Plan is best suited to identify the correct overall project duration, and to create flow. This is because flow reduces overproduction, excess inventory, excess crew counts, and all other wastes including costs. If we can get the project in a rhythm, we can win at everything else!

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Jason Schroeder is a former Field Operations and Project Director. He has worked as a construction leader for 22 years through positions that range from field engineer, to project superintendent, general superintendent and field operations director. He is the Owner and Lead Consultant at Elevate Construction IST, a company focused on elevating construction from coast to coast by providing insights, solutions, and training that create respect in the field, through trained leaders, which ultimately preserves and protects families in construction. He is the creator of the Field Engineer Boot Camp and Superintendent Boot Camp, which are immersive courses that train field leadership.