Why we are still struggling to deliver projects in time

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Construction projects are complex in nature. At their very core are people, who drive the initiative towards its successful realisation; the ones who create the requirement, provide the capital, plan, design, build, and finally, operate the facility.

The entire success of the project is centered around people working together with aligned interests in perfect sync. This implies that the success of this endeavour relies on people – their skills, efficiency, and motivation.

In other words, the success of a project delivery hinges on the
people and their reliability to deliver work.

A deeper look into People

Developed in the early 90s by Glenn Ballard and Greg Howell, the Last Planner® System was born out of the realisation that there was limited connection between what was planned as against what was actually happening on site.

Across construction projects, when asked the question; “What percentage of tasks that you plan do you actually complete in a week?”, the answers ranged from 30% to 70%, primarily due to the fact that there was no real data to back up these impressions.

Upon subsequent research, it was observed that the average standard measure was 54%.

“Teams’ reliability across projects is practically that of a ‘coin-flip’.”

Playing gamble with projects

In the simplest manner, this implied that the predictability of work completion was as much as a game of betting – Are we really gambling with our project delivery?

This metric of tasks completed as against planned for the week came to be known as Percent Planned Complete or PPC. So yes, around 30 years ago, the global average PPC was at 54%.

Is it any different today on your project site?

LPS to drive collaboration and communication

Commitment based planning is the fundamental basis of the Last Planner ® System, wherein the last planners make sound commitments for the work to be executed on-site. This enables the entire team to have a clear discussion on the flow of activities.

A definite way to reduce uncertainty is postponement – do everything at the last responsible moment. This way, you have all the information you can possibly acquire about the work, and ensure predictable release of work from one specialist to another.

Collaborative planning sessions help review the project schedule collectively through various lenses. From reviewing long-range phase targets to detailed constraint mapping in the look-ahead weeks, the teams can narrow down to the weekly work plan with increasing accuracy.

Infographic showing collaborative planning sessions LPS
Collaborative Planning Session with VisiLean

People and Process are key

In our experience of working with teams across the globe, the implementation of LPS has ranged from very basic sticky-note planning to highly advanced digital setups supporting pull-planning through execution phases, as well as 3-6 week look-ahead plans.

With both having their pros and cons, what has stood out in each case is the appropriation of the practices by each team to their existing workflows. Understanding this has been critical to aligning our tool to best suit their existing practices, to then propose improvement solutions moving ahead.

The bottom-line is the same though –
It is your team that defines the make-or-break of the implementation, and drive the process improvement.

It is these people who need to recognise the importance of planning and committing to work as a team, rather than an action-based solo approach. A collaborative review of the PPC and the Reasons for Variance can go a long-way towards continuous improvement.

With LPS providing teams with a powerful visualisation tool, the work clarity encourages teams to review the flow and map constraints that might hinder execution on-site. This considerably improves communication between teams in terms of planned work and hence, productivity on site.

We dedicate this post to Glenn and Greg, for their exceptional contribution to the industry.