Last Planner System® for Design

Last Planner System® for Design

Introduction to Last Planner System® (LPS®) for Design

In the built environment, professionals have found great benefit in utilizing Lean concepts throughout their processes in the construction phase to increase value and reduce waste. However, utilizing these methods throughout the design phase can also be hugely beneficial.

The design phase of a project is a crucial period during which many decisions are made and the building blocks are set up for the rest of the project. By bringing Lean methods into this early piece of the project, waste can be reduced in massive quantities as owners, designers, and constructors plan together.

One of the most reliable ways to stay on track while planning and completing projects, in any project phase, is by using the Last Planner System. LPS, a system developed by the Lean Construction Institute, has been massively helpful for improving outcomes in the construction phase. With just a few adjustments, LPS can be utilized in the design phase to achieve similarly great results.

How is the Last Planner System Used in Design?

While design work doesn’t have the hard logic of construction work, it is still accomplished in a network of commitments made among specialists. That network can be designed and managed so that the work that should be done, can be done, and will be done.

LPS in Design Phase vs. Construction Phase

Planning in the construction phase is often more straightforward as processes are linear in nature and the flow is “tangible materials.” Milestones are more clearly defined by expected outcome which is observable in the field.

In the design phase, the flow is instead defined by the stream of information, and milestones are defined by “decision points” instead of observable outcomes.

Regardless of these differences, LPS is still extremely helpful in the design phase as teams work in collaboration towards their own specific goals and benchmarks.

Five Connected Conversations in LPS for Design

The Last Planner System is all about creating pull, which means your processes should be set up in a way that a deliverable begins processing when the demand for that deliverable is given, as opposed to creating deliverables on a repeated cycle without any regard for whether the demand is meeting the supply. This system greatly reduces waste in processes, which greatly increases value and reduces the odds of a project being over budget.

The Last Planner System as used in the construction phase is a commitment-based system integrating five connected planning conversations:

  1. Milestone Planning sets up the work in phases so the team knows when the work should be done.
  2. Phase Pull Planning establishes what should be done.
  3. Look Ahead Planning gets the upcoming work in a condition so that it can be done.
  4. Weekly Work Planning establishes the set of promises from specific people for the work that will be done.
  5. Learning/Improving at least weekly, the last planners take time to learn from their performance.

When using the Last Planner System for the design phase, the five connected conversations remain mostly the same as with construction, with one exception:

  1. Milestone Planning (Should)
  2. Phase Pull Planning (Should)
  3. Design Cycle Planning – instead of Look Ahead Planning (Can)
  4. Weekly Work Planning (Will)
  5. Learning/Improving (Did)

Let’s dive more into the specifics of these conversations as they pertain to the design phase.

1. Milestone Planning

The goal of Milestone Planning is for the team to align on and set the milestones for the project. For the design phase, these milestones may include handoffs of information as well as decisions, activities, and deliverables to meet a specific release of part of the project.

This should be conducted as early as possible in a project.

2. Phase Pull Planning

The goal of Phase Pull Planning is for the team to determine the key handoffs of work or information needed to deliver a milestone. As handoffs can generally be a pain point in processes where a lot of waste occurs, it’s important to plan these effectively to keep workflow as smooth as possible.

This type of planning may also involve process mapping or value stream mapping.

3. Design Cycle Planning

Design cycle planning revolves around planning for a consistent design cycle in which the team determines how to reliably deliver work in 2-3 week cycles called sprints. From these design plans, you will later be able to extrapolate your weekly work plans.

4. Weekly Work Planning

The goal of Weekly Work Planning is for the Last Planners to establish the plan for the upcoming week at the daily level.

During this phase, teams identify the promised task completions agreed upon by the performers for the upcoming week, then determine the success of planning effort as a basis of the measuring PPC (Percent Plan Complete).

Percent Plan Complete

PPC is the basic measure of how well the planning system is working. By dividing the number of completed tasks by the number of total tasks to be completed, you get a flat measurement of how much progress you’ve made as a team.

Weekly tracking of PPC is important because it allows you to identify potential areas for delay down the line and to quickly be able to respond to problems.

This is best done through weekly work plans, where team members commit to what they’re going to complete at the beginning of the week/day, then report what was actually done at the end of the same period. By completing this process on an ongoing basis, you can see where problems repeatedly crop up, which may indicate that a process change is needed.

Constraint Identification & Mitigation

Part of the weekly work planning process involves identifying potential constraints to the workflow. During these check-in sessions, all team members are expected to present potential constraints, which are then logged.

From there, the team should discuss resolution plans should those constraints become prohibitive to the work that is planned to be completed.

In the design phase, these constraints may include information or materials not arriving on time, resources not being available, or a lack of time to complete the task.

5. Learning/Improving

The goal is for the team to learn from the cycle and take actions for improving going forward, fulfilling PDCA. Whether you’re a designer or constructor, maintaining a mindset of continuous improvement is paramount for your overall success.

Variance Management

When completing the learning phase of the process, you will almost certainly find areas where work was supposed to be completed but wasn’t. The factors that led to this gap are known as reasons for variance.

Determining the reasons for variance is extremely helpful for the learning process and in allowing the team to adapt to create a more predictable and reliable workflow.

In the design phase, common reasons for variance include:

  • Overcommitment
  • Miscommunication
  • Previous work not being completed
  • Changes in the work plan
  • Outside constraints
  • Resources not being available

When a variance or failure occurs, the team must discuss the likelihood of it occurring again and determine actions to mitigate such.

Learn the Last Planner System

The Lean Construction Institute is committed to transforming the design and construction industry by providing Lean educational resources, conducting field research, and facilitating local and national Lean events. Explore the supplementary resources below to further your understanding of The Last Planner System.

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