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A Guide for New Users of the Last Planner™ System

Nine Steps for Success

(Second Draft)

Gregory L. Howell, P.E.


Hal Macomber

Lean Project Consulting, Inc


November 18, 2002

©2002 Lean Project Consulting, Inc. All rights reserved worldwide. www.leanproject.com 208-726-9989.
Last Planner System is a trademark of the Center for Innovation in Project and Production Management,
d.b.a. Lean Construction Institute, www.leanconstruction.org.
A Guide for New Users of the Last Planner System

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Nine Steps for Success

This guide addresses


 When to use the LPS vs. other lean approaches
 Step-by-step implementation plan
 Improving upon the implementation
 Teamwork, Trust, and Fear
 Organization conditions for success (support, leadership, etc)

We have also included a glossary, references, other implementation practices, and


leadership and best practices appendices.

Notes to Readers

Italicized text is used throughout this document to designate glossary items. You will
find definitions in a Glossary at the end of the book.

This guide complements the coaching-by-email program Your First 30 Days on the Last
Planner System. You will find references to the daily lessons in brackets throughout the
text indicating more information is available in the lesson. [5] is a reference to the Day
Five lesson.

When to use the Last Planner™ System


The Last Planner System was designed for projects longer than eight weeks and where a
number of people are required to fulfill the promises for the customer. For the
uncomplicated projects the practices can be carried out on white boards. As scope,
complexity, and duration increase, automation tools are necessary to do a comprehensive
job of planning. Initially those tools could be a set of spreadsheets. Eventually project
management environments such as MS Project are required. In either case the project can
be broken into smaller projects to aid in managing. At the highest end of complexity,
scope, and duration, you may want to consider web-based tools.

For those projects that are short in duration, limited in scope and complexity, and where
there are only two or three participants, consider using a less formal approach for
planning and managing the project.

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9 Steps for Success


We can’t claim a proven path for implementing the LPS on your project. However, we
can say a best practice is evolving. We have observed a set of practices that generally
work. Start with these.

This chapter is organized in 9 steps. The sections are both progressive: do one before the
other, and they are intended to be pervasive: keep doing it throughout the project. Before
jumping into the 9 steps, start by reviewing our best advice: get off to a good start.

Top Five Actions for Getting Off to a Good Start


1. Give yourself and your team the opportunity to behave as beginners. By that we
mean you may find the practices to be awkward; they may take you more time
than you want to take; and you may find you must revisit work that you thought
was complete. You may also need to seek out help from people experienced with
the LPS.

2. Don’t pretend that you already do the LPS practices. You’ll only short change the
project, your team, and yourself. You may already do some of the practices, but it
is the set of practices that makes the difference.

3. Don’t be concerned with understanding. Understanding will come with practice.


Taking time now to understand before you act only delays being in action and
there are some things that are just not possible to see or understand until they are
experienced.

4. Don’t be concerned with looking good. You won’t look good if your attention is
on learning. Make it your goal to make your make mistakes early and often.

5. Take care of mood of the team and your mood. We learn best when we are in
moods of openness, wonder, playfulness, and appreciation. Beware of the moods
of resignation, panic, arrogance, and complacency. Check in frequently. Speak
about your own mood and invite team members to do the same.

Now you’re ready to begin!

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Step 1: Clarify the Promises of the Project with the Customer

Projects are promises. Usually big promises or, they are a set of promises. Some people
think that once you clarify the customer requirements, then that is it. Experience tells us
otherwise. People change their minds. We learn; the situation changes; and background
concerns and issues change, get resolved, and simply go away.

Clarifying customer concerns and requirements is an on-going practice. Some changes,


of course, can be addressed within the definition of the project and with the available
resources. Other changes add scope and risk. In these situations you may need to
establish new budgets, schedules, and contract terms. Meet on a regular schedule with
your customer.

Establish an agenda that includes:

 Your key assessments of the project (risks, opportunities, and performance to


plan)
 Investigation of your customer’s satisfaction (example coming)
 Review the promises of the project for clarity and recommitment
 Discussion that your customer be responsible and reliable with their commitments

Agree to a schedule for regular meetings. For projects with more than 4 last planners
consider having a pre-meeting to the weekly work planning meeting to address the
constraints. Make it your job that these meetings occur. Anything might seem more
urgent than a standing meeting, until something has gone wrong on the project. These
meetings will provide the opportunity for you to develop a trusting relationship with your
customer. Don’t short-change yourself.

Step 2: Build Your Team

Building a team starts with selecting people who are well-suited for the project and who
want to be on the project. Nothing beats a team whose members want to perform and are
capable of doing so. Too often teams are established with whoever is available at the
moment without regard to what the people are good at, what they enjoy doing, what else
they are involved in, and the extent to which they care about the mission of the project.

The dirty little secret behind many project failures is the use of full time equivalent
people. When a team is staffed with FTEs you are resigning yourselves to multi-tasking.
Multi-tasking is one of the top three sources of project unreliability. Some might say that
any engineer is better than no engineer. On the other hand, an engineer who is
enthusiastic, competent, and dedicated will make a real difference on your project.
Further, teams develop a working style. Having people coming and going from your
team will be disruptive and is generally ineffective.

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Building a team is an on-going process. How team members coordinate with each other
requires continued attention. So does the mood of each individual and the mood or spirit
of the team. People fall (or drift) into bad moods. Those moods show up in the
conversations, “Ain’t it awful…” “It wasn’t our fault…” “We did our best…” “Who
could have known…” and my favorite “There’s nothing we can do about it…” The
leader and team members can take responsibility for producing moods that are
appropriate for the task at hand. When in planning conversations moods of ambition and
prudence may be appropriate. When working on resolving a breakdown you may want
your team in moods of determination and seriousness. Don’t let the project get away
from you; take charge of the mood.

You take charge in the assessments you make. People get lazy with their assessments
often thinking their first reaction is the ‘right’ one. Teams depend on the assessments of
the leader. When we take the time to craft assessments we respect the members of the
team while creating the opportunity for success. Explore your assessments with your
team. Invite them to improve upon your assessment rather than agreeing or disagreeing
with you. The assessments we make open and close possibilities. Use the practice of
crafting your assessments to increase the possibilities for action.1

Step 3: Establish a Milestone Plan and Pull Schedule

The production system to complete the work required to complete a milestone is designed
by pull scheduling. The people responsible for the work in the phase prepare the pull
schedule. The resulting plan is detailed to show the hand-offs between trades or groups
of specialists, but not so detailed as to show the work within a group. Pull scheduling
begins by starting from the ending milestone and working backward. The person
responsible for the milestone establishes the milestone completion criteria and explains
how it supports the project promise. The process works best by placing a card
representing the milestone, its completion criteria and its link to the project promise on
cards at the far right side of a blank wall. Then, working back from the ending milestone,
activities are added by the Responsible Individuals (RIs) present (or provisionally by
others if they are not)2. Specific conditions for the release of work between activities
must be described so that upstream participants know what they must do to complete their
work so that the downstream activity can begin. The pull schedule should answer the
following questions;
 In what chunks will work be assigned to specialists?
1
Example: The client changes his mind about one of his conditions of satisfaction. You might be inclined
to think the customer is flaky. What action is opened by that? You might decide you have to pin the
customer down on requirements. On the other hand, you might conclude the customer is learning what he
could be getting. Your action in this case is to help the customer learn faster. Crafting assessments with
your team, gives you the chance to choose the more powerful of assessments.
2
Every effort should be made to assure the RI supervising each activity in the phase is present. The Pull
Schedule should not be considered complete until these parties have carefully considered the Pull Schedule,
understood the criteria expected for the release of work to them and from them to the next activity, and
agree that they can do their work within the time allowed.

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 How will work chunks be sequenced?


 How will work be released from one production unit to the next?
 Will consecutive production units execute work in a continuous flow process or
will their work be de-coupled?
 Where will de-coupling buffers be needed and how should they be sized?
 How will tolerances be managed?
 When will different chunks of work be done?
Once the structure of work in the phase is firm and activities are identified, the RI for
each establishes durations. The RI should be reasonably confident that the duration can
be met and should identify any sources of significant risk. The group then determines the
amount of time available for ‘contingency’ and decides, as a group, how to spend it.
Typically, this means allocating more time to those activities likely to run late. If no float
is available after the backward pass, the team must examine the schedule and find a way
to create float. If no solution is apparent within the phase, the milestone schedule may
have to be adjusted.
A completed pull schedule represents the design of the production system in terms of the
work done by each craft or crew, and establishes the conditions for release of work3.
More detailed design of specific operations is left for the look-ahead period unless
operational details or coordination requirements demand earlier attention. Each party
understands and supports the schedule, i.e., both how their effort contributes to the larger
goal, and the nature of their commitment to the project and downstream workers. A pull
schedule is a promise from each team that, “We can accomplish the work in this phase by
working in this sequence. And given what I know now, I believe I can do my work in the
time allotted.”
Pull Scheduling will be successful when these questions can be answered fully.
 Were the criteria for completing the milestone clear and linked to the promise of
the project to the client?
 Did RIs prepare the Pull Schedule?
 Did each RI establish specific criteria for the completion of previous work in the
phase?
 Is each participant confident they can start the work and complete it as planned?
 Have risks or sources of uncertainty in doing the work safely, in completing it on
time, and to established quality standards been identified and actions taken to
cope with or eliminate the problems?

3
Safety should be considered here. If one step is to prepare a deck, the conditions for release should
identify that all holes are protected by barricades.

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 Were circumstances considered where work might be completed late or early and
tentative plans made to cope with or take advantage of the situation?
 Was coordination required during the phase discussed to assure a common
understanding of how action will be coordinated?
 Will the way work is done within any one activity require adjustments in the Pull
Schedule?
 Have all items required for work in the phase that take longer than the look-ahead
period been identified?

Step 4: Make Work Ready Using the Look-Ahead Plan

The look-ahead plan (LAP) is central to project reliability. It supports the practice of
making work ready. Work is made-ready through systematically investigating and
addressing each of the constraints for performing an activity. Those constraints fall in
three classes: directives, prerequisites, and resources.

Directives represent declarations, rules and guidance for the project. Directives answer
the questions what, where, how, and how well? Customer conditions of satisfaction,
company policy, laws, regulations, procedure, standards, and specifications are all
directives.

Prerequisites as a class represent action that must be taken prior to the performance of
another activity. A better way to understand this is to define the conditions upon which
work can proceed or is released. Work advances when others’ work is completed, when
material is made available (whether in the course of performing the project or as a supply
to the project), when decisions are made, and authorizations or permission to act are
given.

Resources carry a load or have capacity. There are three resource types: machines, space,
and labor. Some people expect to find material in this class. Material however doesn’t
have capacity. It belongs in the class of prerequisites.

Step 5: Produce a Weekly Work Plan

The weekly work plan (WWP) is the basic tool for coordinating action and maintaining
control on your project. The plan is a record of the conversations you have that establish
exactly what will be done by whom and by when. Here is another way of thinking about
this: What are the promises each team member is making for the up-coming week?

When you establish the WWP you are agreeing in detail how you are fulfilling the look-
ahead plan. This takes place in promising conversations. These conversations take the

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following form: last planners make proposals of what it is they see they can and will do
to meet the LAP. Those proposals are negotiated with the project manager in the
presence of other last planners. This public conversation provides the opportunity to
align the performers’ actions with each other. We say this is planning as conversation
bringing about a coherency of commitments to deliver on the promises of the project.

Project coordination and control in the Last Planner System is principally the practice of
eliciting reliable promises and declarations of completion of those activities that release
work to others. This allows the project work to stay in the desired sequence and advance
as quickly as possible. By paying attention to the declarations of completion – performers
say they are done – one task can follow the other with little delay.

Mechanics of weekly work planning fall into three classes: preparation, negotiation, and
commitment. Notice we haven’t said it is about filling out forms or entering data in the
computer, and we do have to do that. However, planning is conversation. We
recommend that last planners prepare for the WWP meeting by reviewing the current
performance and upcoming requirements with the team or crew who will perform the
work. Conversations with ‘doers’ will result in reasonable and reliable promises.

Last planners come together with the project manager to negotiate their proposed work at
the WWP meeting. When people are prepared these conversations are short. Last
planners have the benefit of being in these sessions from one week to the next. That
gives them confidence to make proposals that will satisfy the LAP and fit with the other
work planned for the week. The aim of the conversation is to produce a coherent plan of
action for the up-coming week that keeps the project on schedule.

Finally, a consolidated plan is presented to all last planners as the opportunity to (re)
commit themselves to completing the work for the up-coming week.

Step 6: Conduct the First WWP Meeting

Start by establishing a small set of guidelines. We recommend three:

1. Be respectful: Be on time and prepared for the meeting.


2. Grant legitimacy: Investigate each others’ opinions and invite others to investigate
your opinions.
3. Be responsible: Promise reliablyi and help others do so.

You could adopt more rules. We think these suffice for the WWP meeting.

Adopt a standard agenda for each meeting.


 Start by reviewing the last session’s plus-delta comments. Select one or two
points of attention for the days’ planning session.

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 Review last week’s plan reliability. Simple yes|no responses for each task that
was promised to be complete. Record the reason for variance for each ‘no’
answer that is presented.
 Review the look-ahead plan. Consider revisiting the promises of the project and
the up-coming milestones. Pay particular attention to next week’s work. Exercise
prudence by questioning any work from advancing to the WWP when there are
unresolved constraints. Secure promises to address all open constraints. Record
those promises as tasks on the up-coming weekly work plan.4
 Review next week’s WWP. Get reliable promises for each task: performer,
estimate of time to perform (not duration), and exactly when the work will be
performed.
 Finish the meeting with a plus-delta review.

Throughout the meeting keep everyone’s attention on improving performance rather than
punishing for poor performance. It helps to acknowledge progress as well as behaviors
demonstrated in the meeting that are good for overall team performance. For instance,
look for the opportunity to praise people who offer help, ask for help, invite people to
investigate their opinions, and keep the conversation focused.

Beware of happy talk, complacency, avoidance of conflict, and problem-solving. Keep


people on topic. Also beware during promising conversations to look for the elements of
reliability, particularly the freedom to decline. When people don’t see they have a choice,
then they fall into resignation and resentment. You want your team members in moods of
ambition and perseverance.

Step 7: Track Plan Reliability (PPC) on the Wall

The principal way we measure plan reliability is the percent of the plan that is completed
(PPC). The planning horizon is less than 1 week. For planning work weeks that run
Monday through Friday people usually will update next week’s weekly work plan each
Thursday afternoon or Friday morning. To measure whether work is performed reliably
use the question “Did you do the work as you promised when you promised?” There are
only two answers: yes or no. The answers: almost, substantially complete, 90%
complete, and “yes-but…” are not allowed. Performance is calculated as a percentage of
tasks completed on the plan divided by total tasks on the plan. No credit is given for
tasks completed that were not on the plan, nor is the base adjusted downward for work
that was planned that later was found to not be needed. The purpose of this measurement
is to assess the reliability of the planning system.

4
The look-ahead plan is used for making work ready. As you go through the plan with key people consider
what might keep the work from starting and completing as intended. The constraints will fall into the three
categories of directives, prerequisites and resources. Get someone to promise to resolve each open or
ambiguous item.

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Posting the performance of planning reliability (on the wall) is critical to improving
performance. Good performance is above 80%; poor performance is below 60%. Mature
teams are able to keep performance above 85% on a daily basis.

Here are some other useful ways for measuring the performance of the planning system:
 What percent of work performed in the week was planned to be performed? This
is a measurement of how well the team anticipates.
 What work was added to the plan inside of the one-week planning horizon? This
is a measurement of surprises.
 What is the percent of work that can be done versus what should be done? This
measures the readiness or preparedness of planning.
 What is the percent of work that did get done versus should be done? This
measures the original planning.

Step 8: Track Reasons for Plan Variance on the Wall

We have included standard reasons for plan variance. Use these to establish your Pareto
chart. The following chart details the usual reasons found on your WWP.

Reason Name Explanation


1 Unclear COS Didn’t understand conditions of satisfaction
2 Unclear rules or standards Didn’t understand external directives
3 Client change Criteria change after the assignment
4 Unclear requirement I didn’t know what was needed
5 Failure to request I failed to request what I knew was needed
6 No customer I didn’t identify who would be receiving what was
needed
7 No performer I didn’t identify who was providing what was needed
8 Unclear COS I didn’t specify exactly what was needed
9 No due date I didn’t establish by when it was needed
10 Late request Ordered too late
11 Prerequisite work Provider failed to deliver
12 No promise to deliver Agreement broke down with the provider
13 Insufficient resource Misunderstood the workload
14 Overestimated capacity Misunderstood the capacity of requested resources
15 Unavailable resource The resource was absent with or without notice
16 Unplanned work The resource shifted to other work

The Pareto chart is updated as each variance occurs. Reason for the incidence rather
than severity is what is being recorded. Be wary of the first answer to why did the
variance occur. A five why analysis usually reveals a different reason. One of the other
usual findings is that the source of variation is usually in the control of project
participants (failure to request protective covering) rather than out of their control (poor
weather).

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Schedule your first review of the data after accumulating data for three weeks or until you
have more than 10 data points. Address the highest occurring reason first. Do an
analysis with your team to remove the source of the variation. While there are different
methods in use (seven problem-solving (QC) tools, the new seven tools, etc), the most
important question to answer in selecting a variance to act on is “Do we have the
authority and wherewithal to address the situation?” Don’t waste time on items that are
not yours to address. Instead, get the responsible parties involved and get a promise from
them to eliminate the source of planning variation.

Planning performance will not just improve by itself. Tracking, isolating, and eliminating
sources of variation are the chief way you will improve project reliability.

Step 9: Establish practices for Improvement

Habits follow practice. Start by establishing practices that you want adopted as habit.
We’ll use the practice of plus-delta reviews to examine what to focus on and how to go
about it. The plus-delta review is a form of in-the-moment peer coaching. The intent is
to provide real-time feedback on what worked to produce value and what could be done
to produce more value. The spirit of the plus-delta review is unconditionally positive.
That’s not to mean sugar-coating. Rather it has attention on progress and what is
working. It also provides the opportunity for each person to express their opinion, which
early on in projects reinforces that you are interested in each others’ opinions.

Eventually, people will not wait until the end of the meeting to provide peer coaching.
You will find people will take responsibility in the midst of a conversation to have it be
successful. That is just what you want.

Be diligent about taking action after each plus-delta review. Failing to act on the plus-
delta review comments is disastrous for the project. Notice we didn’t say ‘can be
disastrous’. It is always disastrous. People will perceive it as going through the motions,
insincere, or a waste of time.

Assess your performance at regular intervals. Do this as a team and then again with your
customer and any sponsor group. We suggest three standard questions for assessing
performance:

1. What are we doing well?


2. What have we learned?
3. What needs more attention?

The focus of a project assessment is on the future, not the past. Reviewing past
performance is for creating the basis for taking action in the future. Keep your attention
on the promises of the project when doing these assessments and you will come up with
actions that make a difference to the future performance of the project. Let’s go over
these questions one-at-a-time.

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We ask the first question, “What are we doing well?” with the intention to acknowledge
performance and preserve performance for the future. Use the question to examine team
practices of planning and coordination. For instance, do you start and end weekly work
planning sessions on time? Are you diligent about doing a five why analysis for each plan
variance? Use the question to look for what you are routinely doing well. By starting
with the question you will put yourselves in a positive mood setting the stage for the next
two assessments.

The second question, “What have we learned?” gives the team the opportunity to
appreciate each other and to set a standard for continued learning. Learning is an
assessment. Be clear for yourselves how you know you learned. What is it that you can
now do that you were not able to do previously? When looking at learning, use a ladder
of proficiency to gauge progress. For example, when learning to play soccer you don’t
expect the new player to pass without having the ball intercepted. Getting the ball to a
team mate some of the time is progress. Keep your attention on the progress you and
your team are making.

With the third question, “What needs more attention?” we put our attention on only those
areas that will make a difference to tomorrow’s results. There is no sense beating on
someone for something that won’t matter tomorrow. Here is another way of asking the
question, “What do we need to get good at?” Maybe the answer is something you are
already good at, but more proficiency is needed. We have a tendency to focus on what is
not working. Don’t fall into that trap when you answer this question. Some of the
greatest opportunities for improvement can be found among the people who are already
doing well.

Do these reviews in a spirit of unconditional constructiveness. That’s not to mean be


positive for positive’s sake. No. It means we are building something together.
Remember that. Underscore ‘building’ and ‘together’. We need each other and we have
the opportunity to improve our collective performance.5

Teamwork, Trust, and Fear


Projects succeed and fail for all sorts of reasons. Often our success is just good luck like
so many failures can be attributed to bad luck. What does luck have to do with it? When
preparation meets opportunity we have luck. Where can we focus our efforts on
preparation? On the dynamics of teams: teamwork, trust, and timidity.

Teamwork, hot groups, in the groove, or flow, is what we’re after.


How do you get it? Put your attention on how people interact with each other. Practices
of coordinating action make or break teams. Coordination on projects occurs in
5
There’s a currently popular book Whale Done! by Ken Blanchard, author of The One Minute Manager. It
seems killer whales are trained with only positive feedback, no negative feedback. The reason is quite
practical: trainers have to get in the water with the killer whale. If these animals can learn without negative
feedback why are we giving negative feedback to our coworkers?

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conversation. Are people making reliable promises? Do they act with free will and
generosity? Do people invite others to offer their opinions? These are the acts for
coordinating.

Trust is foundational to team performance.


Trust doesn’t just happen. There’s nothing mysterious about it either. Trust, trusting, and
trust-worthiness all take cultivation, conversation, and commitment. Many people say,
“I’ll trust when I’ve got evidence that the other person is trust-worthy.” What if that
person is at the center of coordination? Imagine the waste, the hedging, the buffers, the
resulting bad moods of the people who aren’t being trusted. How much damage could
that do to your project?

What is trust? For starters it is a complex assessment about a person’s sincerity,


competence, reliability, and care to perform for and on your behalf. We say, “I trust my
son to take out the trash without being reminded” or “I trust the babysitter will keep my
daughter safe and see that she is content” or “I trust the engineer will produce a design
that is within the budget allotted and the time available.” Notice that when we trust, we
are always speaking about another person in action taking care of our concerns. That
trust is often based on experiences from the past. But not limited to it. For instance, I
trust the surgeon recommended by my family practitioner will take care of me through my
operation. In that case I am relying on another person’s ability to assess competence,
sincerity, reliability, and care. It is not an assessment that I am competent to make.

So what must we do on our projects? We must be open to talking about trust. ‘Trusting’
builds in conversation as well as through the successful completion of work with and for
one another. Give yourself and each other permission to raise issues of trust. Have those
conversations in moods of inquiry, care for each other, and concern for the success of the
project. The conversations needn’t be accusatory. We’ve learned that most of the time
people are just doing their best; no more; no less. Engage in conversations of trust with
that supposition and you can only produce more trust.

Fear gets in the way of all performance.


Navigating off of our fear rather than grounded assessments of risk and consequence
keeps us from attaining our goals. It’s been said that what people fear most is public
speaking. Perhaps. It is a good example of paying attention to one’s emotions rather than
the risk and consequences of the situation. No one dies speaking in public, but people
report having fear similar to the risk of death. What does this have to do with projects?
People on your team are surely acting from their fears rather than the ambitions and
commitments of the team. They continue to do so and will until you intervene. You do
not want team members withholding their views for fear of displeasing the boss. You
don’t want people saying “Yes” when they mean “No” because they don’t want to appear
uncooperative. These actions put your project at risk.

Organization Conditions for Success

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Assess your readiness for a LPS implementation.


We see people jumping into Last Planner System implementations without considering if
they are ready, how the LPS is different from current practice, and without taking the time
to bring their team on board. Projects are tough enough without introducing more
challenges. We urge you to take the time you need to get you and your team ready to
succeed.

We prepared the following assessment tool from working with numerous teams. While it
conveniently comes out to 10 points, we couldn’t come up with an 11th nor could we
agree on dropping one. At the same time, being able to satisfy the assessment doesn’t
ensure a successful project, only that you have a good chance of getting off to a good
start.

Use the assessment tool with your team members. Starting off this way will set a good
example for working collaboratively. Use this first opportunity to explore your own style
and to encourage team members to try on new styles for themselves.

Assessing Project Readiness


1 There is a single person speaking as the customer of this project. O
2 There is a clear set of promises made by the project manager and accepted by O
the customer.
3 We understand why this project is important to the customer. O
4 We understand the risks, opportunities, and consequences in the project. O
5 We have the right people to do this project. O
6 We have enough time to accomplish the promises of the project. O
7 Standard meetings have been established for weekly work planning, customer O
reviews, and improving project performance.
8 The project team has declared its set of rules of conduct. O
9 Team members commit to the outcome(s) of the project. O
10 Nothing will get in the way of our success. O

Use an agree|disagree approach for this assessment. Fill in the circle if you agree; leave it
blank if you disagree. Do not proceed with your project until you can answer positively
to all ten statements.

Story-telling is part of keeping the promises and context alive for the project team.
The best approach is the one that works for you and your team. Get comfortable with
speaking about what you are delivering and why you are doing it. Make opportunities to
speak at project team meetings, in one-on-one conversations with team members and
other interested parties, and invite your key project team members to do the same.
Consider establishing an email list and/or project klog to support the team.

Go all out to keep your customer engaged in your project.


For some people this could sound dangerous. We can tell you that it is dangerous when
you don’t keep your customer engaged. Notice we didn’t say “involved” in the day-to-
day activities. To the extent you can avoid having your customer perform for you on the

Page 15 of 21
A Guide for New Users of the Last Planner System

project. At the same time the customer is the only one who can say what is to be
provided and to what standards. That is unavoidable. Meet regularly with your customer
to review project performance. Invite the customer to make assessments. Practice
listening during these sessions. You may need to work on being more open and less
defensive.

Perform regular team assessments of the project.


We offer the following tool. Use it with your team, your customer, and your project
sponsor or other interested parties. We selected just ten characteristics of high
performing project teams. Answering that you strongly agree to just two or three of these
characteristics is often a feat. Don’t be discouraged by the results. Remember to use this
for the basis of action planning.

Assessing Project Performance


1 The look-ahead plan and weekly work plan are updated and agreed to every O
week.
2 We start and end each planning session with a plus-delta review. O
3 WWP tasks are proposed by the last planner and negotiated with the project O
manager or other responsible party.
4 Project performance (PPC & Pareto data) is prominently displayed in the project O
work-setting.
5 Pareto data is used to improve project performance. O
6 This project is on an improving path. O
7 Only tasks in a made-ready condition go on the WWP. O
8 New project team members get support using the LPS. O
9 Our motto is, "Reliable everyday." O
10 We are steering this project rather than just responding to each day's urgencies. O

Fill the circle to the right of the question if you strongly agree with the statement. Fill
one half of the circle if you somewhat agree with the statement. Leave the circle empty if
you disagree with the statement.

Page 16 of 21
Nine Steps for Success

Glossary Items

Page 17 of 21
i
Assessments
Synonyms: opinion, characterization, view. Assessments are the basis upon which we take action.
Deliberate action results from the assessments we make together about the state or condition of the
project. A best practice on projects is to make assessments collaboratively considering the extent to
which possibilities have been opened for action.

Background Concerns
In the background of someone’s assessments and requests exist a set of concerns – a kind of caring for
something – that the speaker may or may not notice. A concern is not a worry. Rather it exists as what
we care about…why we are asking for something. Example: I care about my relations with my new
neighbors so I ask the contractor to keep the job site clean and safe. Surfacing those concerns can lead
to the opening of alternate paths and requirements for the project.

Buffers
A mechanism for deadening the force of a concussion; e.g., a capacity buffer is created by scheduling
less than all the time available. If production falls behind schedule, there is capacity available for
catching up. (Lean production/construction generally prefers capacity buffers to inventory buffers.)

Conditions of Satisfaction (COS)


Directives, often criteria, imposed by the entity initiating a process (usually the owner) that specify how
success of the outcome will be gauged. COS are expressed by the customer or on behalf of the
customer.

Customer
The user of one’s output .
Example: John needs the results of our acoustical tests in order to select the best location for his
mechanical equipment. John is our customer because he will use what we produce.

De-coupled

Engaged

Five Why Analysis


A problem-solving technique to get at the root cause of a problem by asking ‘why’ five times. The
approach is often followed by other techiniques, often cause-and-effect analysis.

Float

Full-Time Equivalent (FTE)


The practice of considering human capacity as the equivalent of 40 available hours of a class or group
of performers without consideration to who exactly is available and through what period the hours are
available. The use of FTEs often leads to multitasking and resources in contention.

Grant Legitimacy
Think about the right of a person to be who he is and to think and do as they choose without anyone’s
approval. Granting legitimacy is critical between project participants. Each has their own view
whether or not that view turns out to be useful in furthering the aims of the project. Accepting that and
finding a way to incorporate the differences of perspective can result in more innovation, learning, and
performance.
Happy talk
Insincere conversations that are positive on the surface but conceal negative assessments and unspoken
complaints.

Hot Groups
The term was coined to refer to groups who demonstrated top performance over extended timeframes.
While people differ on characteristics of hot groups and how to sustain them, members of hot groups
are known by their care and trust for each other, the learning and innovation they produce, and an
everyday attention to results.

Ladder of Proficiency
Competency is not an absolute notion. Beginners are expected to know less and perform below those
who are competent. People who are virtuoso or masterful have higer levels of competencey. The
‘ladder’ refers to the range of competency available and attainable.

LAP
Look-ahead plan.

Last Planner™
The person or group that makes assignments to direct workers. ‘Squad boss’ and ‘discipline lead’ are
common names for last planners in design processes. ‘Superintendent’ (if a job is small) or ‘foreman’
are common names for last planners in construction processes.

Look-ahead plan
The middle level in the planning system hierarchy, below front end planning and above commitment
planning, dedicated to controlling the flow of work through the production system.
Look-ahead Schedule
The output of look-ahead planning, resulting from exploding master schedule activities by means of the
activity definition model, screening the resultant tasks before allowing entry into the look-ahead
window or advancement within the window, and execution of actions needed to make tasks ready for
assignment when scheduled. Look-ahead schedules may be presented in list form or bar charts.

LPS
Last Planner System.

LPS Practices

Make ready
‘To make ready’ is to take actions needed to remove constraints from assignments to make them
sound.

MS Project
Software application “Microsoft Project”.

Pareto Chart
Displayed as a bar chart. Used to portray the leading sources of variability on a project. Pareto is also
known as the 80-20 rule.
Percent Plan Complete (PPC)
Percent plan complete; i.e., the number of planned completions divided into the number of actual
completions, usually referring to activities on a weekly work plan.

Plus-Delta
This is a technique for continuously improving the project (pursuing perfection). Meeting participants
are asked to make positive characterizations of what added particular value for them and what could be
changed so that the meeting would be of more value.

PPC
Percent Plan Complete. Calculated as tasks on the plan that are completed as a percent of all tasks
planned for completion. No credit is given for partial completion of a task. PPC is a measure of the
performance of the planning system.

Project klog
A klog is a special kind of weblog for accumulating and disseminating knowledge among a group.
Think of a weblog as a continuously updated web page. Project teams use klogs to tell the story of the
project, record key assessments, commitments, and events, and they use it for conveying what they
learn for the project and for other projects.

Pull
Initiating the delivery of input based on the readiness of the process into which they will enter for
transformation into outputs.
Example: Request delivery of prerequisite information at or before the time you will be ready to
process that information. Note: what’s different here is that the readiness of the process is known rather
than wished. Either the process is ready prior to requesting delivery or plan reliability is sufficiently
high that work plans can be used to predict readiness.

Pull Scheduling

Push vs. Pull


A push system schedules the release of work based on demand, while a pull system authorizes the
release of work based on system status (from Hopp and Spearman 1996 p. 317)

Reason for variance


...for failing to complete weekly assignments; e.g., lack of prerequisites, insufficient time, unclear
directives. Reasons can also be sought for failing to advance scheduled tasks from master schedule to
look-ahead schedule or from one week to the next within the look-ahead schedule.

Release of work
Work is released when it is in a ready state and it is time to perform the work. Ready work has all
constraints resolved. The team can declare work as workable backlog thus making it time to perform
the work even though it is ahead of the orginal schedule.

Reliable promises
A promise is considered reliable at the time it is made when one can assess that the performer has the
wherewithal (materials, tools, skills, etc.) for performing the task, has assessed the time to perform, has
allocated sufficient capacity for performing, is sincere in making the promise, and is ready to be
responsible for the consequences in the likelihood that the promise cannot be fulfilled for whatever
reason.

Responsible Individual
A person who makes promises on the project. These promises usually encompass a domain of action or
responsibility, like structural engineering.

RIs
Responsible individuals.

Seven problem-solving (QC) tools

Weekly Work Plan


A list of assignments to be completed within the specified week; typically produced as near as possible
to the beginning of the week.

WWP
Weekly Work Plan.