Last Planner System (LPS)
BY JEAN-CARL VANDEKERCKHOVE
More often than preferred, the Project Manager or the Project Controls Engineer is regarded as a watch dog. He looks like the bad guy, raging when the work isn’t progressing as planned. He always tries to PUSH his – sometimes unrealistic and overly complex – planning to people executing the work.
These people responsible for execution feel disconnected with the schedule, it is not their schedule and they certainly did not commit to it.
The Last Planner System – part of the Lean Construction approach – is a philosophy aiming to shift the responsibility of planning “what” is done “when” to the people executing the work. The experts know their trade and are able to manage their own work and time, thus encouraging flexibility. These experienced specialists are referred to as the last planners.
The last planner system transforms planning in a PULL effort based on a couple of key words:
- He knows what SHOULD be done : Project Timeframe and high level (phase-)planning
- He knows what CAN be done : He is the expert
- He commits to what WILL be done : The social promise
- He DID what he promised : Continuous improvement process
We would like to touch upon this subject in order to make people think about the ownership of the schedule. Shouldn’t the traditional planning method (PMI) always be adopted as it – theoretically – optimizes the cost and time factors? What with detailed activities that are difficult to estimate, should those be able to change your entire schedule-logic and duration?
In practice the Last Planner System is implemented at the following levels.
The central Project Management team provides the Master planning, a set of key milestones based on phases and deliverables – often strongly connected with the contract. This, of course, is the project bible and sets the boundaries for all other to move within.
For each phase of the project a planning is set up. Here lies the key ingredient for the last planner system to be effective: collaboration between everybody involved in the phase. This planning is often developed in a war room with post-its or other aids and may be set up based on backward planning. In order to have a realistic phase planning, buffers should be strategically added cfr. Risk Analysis blog post.
Tags: Planning , Lean