Last Planner System

An “Old School” Superintendent did what?

A short lesson in Last Planner System Pull Planning as taught by an old school superintendent by asking some simple questions – a lesson in humility.


Last Planner System Pull Planning Lesson Learned

The Last Planner System™(LPS) will help you deliver a project on time.

Let’s be clear though, it is very difficult to manage—in fact, I can guarantee that using LPS™ the first time will not deliver to your expectations. Especially if you are a superintendent.

As superintendents, we often look to push schedules. We have a basic need to start activities when we feel they must be started. Whether you are pushing a CPM schedule or utilizing pull planning, that basic need to start the activity as planned drives us to make sure it happens. Giving control to contractors is not what we like to do.

The Story:

I recently learned something regarding managing LPS™. I watched a more experienced superintendent come to my project, go up to the pull plan, and ask questions related to the activities that were on the board. This superintendent did not necessarily have a ton of experience with LPS™, but he asked a few simple questions that engaged our team in a very different way.

  1. “Have you noticed that your pull plan is calling for 86 people working on the same floor, in the same areas, and on the same week?”
  2. “Why do we have only two trade’s activities on the board for these few weeks at this time?”
  3. “Why are there so many trade’s activities on the board immediately after this one activity?”
  4. “Where are these 86 additional people going to park?”

By directing these questions to the group, several answers and concerns were raised, and the foremen began talking over each other. But I quickly realized that the questions he asked were not for our trade partners—they were for ME and the other superintendents!

With only four questions, this superintendent identified a bottleneck to workflow, an addition of resources with no plan to accommodate, and an opportunity to level out our project resources. When I realized this, my superintendent ego flared up and I wanted to tell him that we would get the work done and for him to go worry about his own job. But then the Lean builder in me allowed me to be humbled and learn a very important lesson.

Use the pull plan for “big picture” thinking. The trade contractors will focus on their tasks and do their best to perform per the plan on the board. The general contractor can review the pull plan for working out logistics issues, bottlenecks of work, and keeping a steady flow of activities.

In other words, I learned to stop using the pull schedule to push the work.

By: Frank Coln, LEED A.P.
Healthcare General Superintendent, NV2A Group


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Frank Coln, NV2A Group

Frank Coln helps teams deliver better projects through his use of lean practices. He has assumed different roles ranging from field engineering to project management. His passion for seeing the work put in place and improving flow of construction activities led him to his current role of project superintendent.

1 Comment(s)

  1. Perry Thompson, LED

    This was a great blog story. There is an evolution going on for superintendents as we are all working hard to do construction a better way. Superintendents are becoming coaches and mentors to trade partners and less like command and control leaders. The results are that trade partners are learning to trust superintendents because they are simply listening to us. I read somewhere that if lean was just developed today it would be called “Listening” rather than lean. I like that idea, because it encompasses what better planning, continuous improvement, reliable commits, and respect for each other really means.

    January 8, 2020 at 8:29 pm | Reply

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