Three Key Takeaways from the Last Planner® System Webinar

Three Key Takeaways from the Last Planner® System Webinar

By Paul Ebbs and David Umstot

Following on from the recent Lean Construction Ireland Last Planner® System webinar, we thought it might be useful to summarise the webinar into three key takeaways:

  • Who are the Last Planners?
  • The role of reliable promises, and
  • Key factors for suc

The Last Planner® System is a production planning and control system of interconnected parts over five key levels.  The closer you get to the work, the more detailed the planning should become. However, research and experience has shown that the further you progress through the five levels of the Last Planner® System the more the use of the system fades off with teams. “Last Planner®” is a system (as shown in Figure 1)and requires all elements for successful implementation.

Figure 1: The Last Planner System Schematic (after Glenn Ballard, Greg Howell and Hal Macomber)

1)The Last Planners®are the people who are closest to the work.

We tend not to call ourselves personal planners, yet we plan out our daily lives and make promises to ourselves, friends and families – usually pretty reliably. Similarly, being a “Last Planner” is not a specific job title per se. Rather, it is a function of the people who use the Last Planner® System who are closest to the work and know and understand it the best. They must have authority to commit resources and make decisions at planning meetings.

The Last Planners collaboratively build plans andcoordinate the desired action to deliver projects. Plans do not get work done. People do by making commitments to complete work. “Plans are nothing, but planning is everything.” as General Eisenhower famously said.

Last Planners also have day jobs. Within an organisation this will be different roles within different departments. On a construction project, examples include trade foremen, clerk of work (inspectors of record), designers (architects and engineers), key suppliers, and site managers (superintendents). Essentially, the Last Planners are the people who have the conversations at the planning wall and coordinate action which leads usto our second key takeaway.

2)Making reliable promises is the primary skill required for reliable workflow.

Reliable promises can only be made once you have progressed through Milestone, Phase and Make Ready Planning to what we call commitment planning. This means that what SHOULD be done CAN be done. It is only after Make Ready Planning that reliable promises are elicited for the work that WILL be done. Promises are tracked daily (DOING & DID) to ensure the team LEARNs from missed commitments by recording reasons why, observing trends, and developing appropriate counter measures to prevent reoccurrence.

The most important prerequisite to making a reliable promise is that all Last Planners have the power to, and feel free to say “no” or “yes, if…”

Given the 5 rules below, Last Planners must say “NO” if they have any doubts about achieving a promise. This will trigger a path clearing activity in the Make Ready process of Figure 1. Otherwise you are stating “YES” without qualification. This is your commitment and will be used as the activity metric (Percentage of Promises Completed – PPC). So before making a promise:

  1. Understand the Condition for Satisfaction (CoS);
  2. Access competency beforehand (i.e. do you or the people under your leadership have the wherewithal to complete the activity to the CoS?);
  3. Ensure capacity is available and allocated;
  4. Ensure there are no unspoken promises in conflict (i.e. your inner self saying “this is not going to happen”); and
  5. Accept responsibility for failure and review the process for learning(i.e. do what is required to ensure your missed commitment will not affect the team’s schedule).

3)There are many factors that contribute to success.

In short, we spoke about some key factors for the successful implementation of the Last Planner® System which include:

  1. Buy-in from the site manager/superintendent into the process;
  2. How the Last Planner® System is first introduced using the Villego® simulation and a competent Last Planner® Systemcoach and facilitator;
  3. Inserting the expectations of how the Last Planner® System will be used into the contract language (please contact us if you need an example);
  4. Logistics matter (e.g. room size & location, layout, stationary);
  5. Getting Last Planners engaged and up to the boards – chairs and tables are not recommended for planning cabins/rooms;
  6. Respect people’s time by starting and finishing on time;
  7. Making reliable promises; and
  8. Capturing reasons for missed commitments and using these to continuously improve as a team.

Final note

We are often asked about using software rather than “outdated sticky notes/tags”. However, the process of the Last Planners physically writing or moving their own tags is a critical part of commitment planning (WILL) and gettingthe team to take ownership of their activities and the collaborative plans they create. For large scale projects there are software products available to assist such as vPlanner but we would draw some caution towards any Last Planner® System software -alone it is not the answer. For example, designers must first learn how to design before using any software. Similarly, teams must understand the process, principles and desired behaviours required to work within the Last Planner® System to foster success. Software will then enable greater benefits.

References & Recommendations for Further Reading

The recently published Last Planner® System Path Clearing Approach and P2SL’s Current Process Benchmark for the Last Planner® System are essential reading for anyone interested in starting and sustaining a Lean journey. The Last Planner® System is the foundation of Lean Project Deliveryand is a gateway to many of the desired behaviours. The International Group for Lean Construction (IGLC) website also has a wealth of free information searchable by key words and authors that has been published since 1993. The 27th Annual IGLC Conference will be hosted in Ireland in 2019. Watch this space for more information.


1 The terms Last Planner® System (often referred to as Last Planner®) are registered trademarks of the Lean Construction Institute (US) to take care how they are taught, coached and used.


2 Ebbs, P., & Umstot, D. (2017). The Five Levels of the Last Planner System: Should, Can, Will, Did, and Learn. LCI Ireland Webinar # 11, September 07, 2017.


3 Ebbs, P.J. (2017). 5 Levels of the Last Planner System: Should, Can, Will, Did, and Learn. Published August 30 2017.


4 Ebbs, P.J. (2017). 10 Tips for Efficient and Effective Last Planner System Sessions. Published October 11, 2017.


5 Umstot, D., & Fauchier, D. (2017). Lean Project Delivery: Building Championship Teams.CreateSpace.


6 Macomber, H., Howell, G.A., & Reed, D. (2005). Managing Promises with the Last Planner System: Closing in on Uninterrupted Flow. In: 13th Annual Conference of the International Group for Lean Construction. Sydney, Australia, 19-21 Jul 2005. pp 13-18.


7 Pasquire, C., & Ebbs, P. (2017). Shared Understanding: The Machine Code of the Social in a Socio-Technical System. In: 25th Annual Conference of the International Group for Lean Construction. Heraklion, Greece, 9-12 Jul 2017. pp 365-372.


8 vPlanner website.


9 Daniel, E., & Pasquire, C. (2017). Last Planner System Path Clearing Approach (LPS-PCA): An approach to guide clients, main contractors and subcontractors of the LPS. Nottingham Trent Publications.


10 Ballard, G., & Tommelein, I. (2016). Current Process Benchmark for the Last Planner


11 Fauchier, D. & Alves, T.D.C.L. (2013). Last Planner® System Is the Gateway to Lean Behaviors. In: C.T. Formoso & P. Tzortzopoulos, 21st Annual Conference of the International Group for Lean Construction. Fortaleza, Brazil, 31-2 Aug 2013. Pp 559-568.


12 International Group for Lean Construction website.


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