Last Planner System

Tangents, Squirrels and The Parking Lot

How to Keep Your Construction Site Meeting on Track

A construction site meeting can easily go off track and chase squirrels or go off on a tangent; Lean expert Keyan Zandy explains how to keep your meetings focused and on point.


Most people don’t like meetings. And when I say most people, I’m talking about your trade partner foreman/last planners. And, why should they, these folks are busy. They have team members working in the field who need their expertise, schedules to hit, safety to monitor, and deliveries to accept. Coming into the trailer for meetings multiple times a week doesn’t usually make their top 10 list. Especially if the superintendent running the meeting doesn’t have good control of the meeting.

Without intent and discipline, it is easy for a jobsite meeting to go off on a tangent with people using the meeting to gripe, complain, or talk about items that don’t involve everyone in the room. When these issues or constraints come up as part of the conversation, it is crucial to know which problems or discussions are not critical to moving the meeting forward and how to keep the meeting on track.

Construction Site Meeting Tips

Below are two ways to keep your meetings on point and running smoothly.

ELMO – If a topic has run its course, if a point has been made and it is time to move on, or if the issue or circumstance does not involve the entire team and can be resolved at a later time, anyone in the meeting is empowered to call ELMO.

ELMO is an acronym that stands for Enough, Let’s Move On. On our projects, it is not rare to see the guys throwing around a stuffed animal named Elmo at someone not keeping to the topic in a meeting. It can be a fun way to break the tension of cutting someone off.

Not the stuffed animal throwing type? No worries. We’ve also had fun yelling out Squirrel (https://tinyurl.com/lr5she2), calling a Two Minute violation (a non-relevant issue has been discussed for two minutes or longer) and throwing a penalty flag (https://tinyurl.com/ww346lc), or launching plastic slingshot frogs  across the room (https://tinyurl.com/tss5vyk).

The Parking Lot

Now, once you’ve gotten the person to stop talking about something irrelevant to everyone in the room, you put it in the Parking Lot.

The Parking Lot – Once Squirrel has been screamed or ELMO, a penalty flag, or a frog has been launched, the topic being discussed needs to be placed in “the parking lot.” It is good practice to write parking lot items on a whiteboard or flip chart as they arise so that the points are not forgotten and also so that the individual who raised the point feels heard. Placing items in the parking lot means that a quick discussion will be held following the meeting with the affected people in order to discuss the issues or circumstances that did not require everyone’s involvement.

Your trade foremen still won’t like meetings, but hopefully they will appreciate the way you facilitate your meetings with the use of these simple tools.

By: Keyan Zandy, COO
Skiles Group

For more from Keyan, see The Lean Builder – A Builder’s Guide to Applying Lean Tools in the Field or Connect with Keyan on LinkedIn.

Keyan Zandy, Skiles Group Keyan Zandy is a longtime Lean practitioner, enthusiast, and advocate. As Skiles Group’s COO, he has a dual focus on client service and on nurturing a progressive company culture. He is ultimately responsible for the oversight of the firm’s daily operations and ensuring that their Lean processes are continuously improved and consistently practiced. He is the co-author of The Lean Builder: A Builder’s Guide to Applying Lean Tools in the Field, which simplifies and clearly articulates the benefits of seven primary Lean concepts, and delivers them in a highly-relatable, immediately-applicable, and field-friendly manner. Keyan also serves as CEO for Smart Safety, an award-winning crisis management communication and emergency response tool.

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