How to Move From Linear Construction Planning to a Collaborative Approach

Traditional construction project management follows a linear process. Plans are passed from one trade to another for each phase, which can produce roadblocks, weak profit margins, and poor productivity rates. Pull Planning addresses many of these issues. 

In Pull Planning, the team defines the final deadline first. Then, they work backward to determine deadlines for key milestones, project phases, and handoffs. Teams can prioritize the most critical tasks and determine any dependencies between tasks. Weekly planning sessions and meetings are used to ensure the project plan stays on track. 

Pull Planning Steps

A Pull Planning session starts with defining the phases or milestones of the project and the desired dates of completion. These milestones are then represented as a timeline on a whiteboard.

Now comes the collaboration portion. The project manager or general contractor will gather a representative from each crew on the project. Each trade will collaborate by using different color sticky notes to identify what they need in relation to each other to complete the milestone. These sticky notes represent the trade itself and the task that needs to be completed.

The process starts at the completion date and the network of activities are then developed backward until reaching the start date. Once this is achieved, time for performance will be added to each of these tasks with no float time or contingencies factored in.

Then the overall project will be evaluated to be sure that all activities are logically related and put into a sequence that makes sense. Float time and contingencies are then added to the most high-risk or uncertain work activities. By identifying the important elements of work, projects are broken down one step at a time. With all critical parts in order, it’s easy to identify areas to improve or delay.

Ways to Achieve Success 

Early training and buy in from subs are critical to Pull Planning success, said Benjamin Quintin, Superintendent G.S.I., EllisDon, a world-leading construction and building services company.

“Use the Pull Plan properly, put actual durations and manpower requirements, and actually track delays instead of just moving tasks.” He added that it’s important to see the overlap of work. “Juggling how many trades in an area and how many crews required overall is crucial. It’s also important to hold people accountable to committed dates.”

The assigned trade will pull a task off the board and work on it and put it back to keep track of progress. This is especially helpful when you have too many tasks for one person or need input from others.

With this collaborative approach, Pull Planning moves beyond linear planning so construction teams can experience greater outcomes.

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