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Look-Ahead Planning

by Hal on December 16, 2004

in PM practice, leadership, teams

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Last week I proposed a set of meeting protocols for conducting projects on a lean basis. These protocols are used with the Last Planner System®. The first protocol is for the Look-Ahead Planning (LAP) meeting.

The point of the LAP meeting is to establish a plan that can be accomplished that closely matches what should be accomplished to meet the overall objectives of the project. I think of this meeting as the occasion for crafting or preparing the set of requests that will be made of the performers in the coming weeks. It is a meeting that the would-be performers attend. Those would-be performers look for the conditions of each up-coming task that would keep them from making a reliable promise at the time that a promise is needed. The lean project community calls those conditions constraints.

There are four objectives for the LAP meeting:

  1. Establish the basis for weekly work planning — promising — in the coming week including identifying workable backlog.
  2. To surface constraints.
  3. To secure and manage the promises for removal of constraints.
  4. To introduce the performers to the coming work.

A usual look-ahead plan has a six-week horizon. The meeting starts with a review of the coming week. Care is given to assess any remaining conditions (constraints) that would keep someone from making a reliable promise on the coming week's workplan. The project manager reviews any remaining constraints, the promises for removal, and then with the performers authorizes a set of requests for the coming week.

Next up is looking at week two on the LAP to see what work can be made available as workable backlog. The group evaluates what unconstrained work could be performed early if either a performer gets ahead or if there is some reason that would prevent the performer from doing the work as promised. The planning conversation ends by authorizing some subset of the second week's work as workable backlog. The group understands only the work authorized in the group conversation is to be workable backlog. This keeps people from doing work that could be out of sequence that would cause difficulty or rework for themselves or others.

The conversation then moves to a review of weeks three through five. There are two keys in this part of the meeting. The first is to review the completion of the promises for removing constraints. The second is to surface more constraints. The process of reviewing the coming work for six weeks has the effect of sharpening the group's attention. Invariably, no sooner has the group removed all the known constraints for a set of tasks than someone comes up with more constraints. During this conversation people are asked to make clear promises including completion dates for removing the constraints. People report complete on previous promises. The project manager updates the plan marking those tasks with no constraints "Ready for Promising".

Finally, the new sixth week of the plan is introduced to the group. For many of the performers they will be quite familiar with the new details because they were involved in establishing those plan details. The project manager highlights interactions of performers in the new work and asks them to identify constraints.

The meeting ends with a Plus-Delta (+Δ) — what produced value? and what might produce more value?

Depending on the complexity of the project and size of the project team these meetings can range anywhere from 30 minutes to 90 minutes.

Next up: the weekly work planning meeting…

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Joe Ely December 17, 2004 at 1:38 pm

Hal, this level of detailed discussion is a huge help. Thank you for taking the time to write up.

Joe

2 Troy Worman January 19, 2005 at 4:38 am

Thank you!

3 Angyan May 12, 2005 at 8:18 pm

It is good to see detailed works like these.
Nice work
Angyan

4 GZeller May 5, 2010 at 9:55 am

Thank you for these clear explanations. All comments are more than 5 years old but I would be pleased if someone had an answer to the following questions:

Week number 2: How can a task belong to the Workable Back if its prerequisite is a task planned for the first week? Should this task be delayed in the week 3?

In another paper from G. Ballard ( http://cns.ou.edu/Bill/files/scheduling/Ballard97-Lookahead%20Planning-IGLC5.pdf ), the 5-week Look-Ahead-Plan shows only 4 weeks, why? How can the WWP be prepared without the first week of the LAP?

I hope can help me,
Best regards,

Guillaume

5 Hal May 8, 2010 at 5:39 am

Guilaume,

workable backlog includes only items that are not constrained. By definition missing prerequisite work would be a constraint.

Regarding preparing the Look-ahead Plan, go back to my protocol. At the meeting the group is authorizing work to be addressed in the WWP meeting. The “first week” of the look-ahead plan is what you need for doing that. Use the two protocols together. You’ll see how it works.

I can’t explain why Dr. Ballard called a 4-week plan a 5-week plan. That was 13 years ago.

6 GZeller May 10, 2010 at 10:56 am

Thank you for your prompt response.
How often is the workable backlog updated? I would say it is a daily update (during the daily coordination). Am I right?
Best regards,

Guillaume

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