Last Planner System
The Last Planner System (LPS) is a collaborative planning process that involves trade foremen or design team leaders (the last planners) in planning in greater and greater detail as the time for the work to be done gets closer. In the UK it is sometimes known as Collaborative Planning and, in the USA, sometimes called Pull Planning.
LPS was created to enable more reliable and predictable production in projects. It also:
- supports the flow of work through the project
- builds trust and collaboration with a project team
- delivers safer projects faster.
LPS brings together those who will execute the work (the team) to plan when and how work will be done through a series of conversational processes. It requires the team to collaboratively remove constraints as a team and to promise delivery of each task. These systematic processes increase the chances that work flows reliably, and recognises that personal relationships and peer pressure are critical to that process.
LPS is a planning, monitoring and control system that follows lean construction principles. It was developed by Glenn Ballard and Greg Howell who later founded the Lean Construction Institute at the behest of a number of constructors who had benefited from their use of LPS.
 Five key processes
Each process (or conversation) within the system brings its own benefits. When all are working together they reinforce each other and the overall benefits are greater. The processes are:
- Collaborative Programming  - Creating and agreeing the production sequence (and compressing it if required) and agreeing the key hand-overs from one trade or design team to the next.
- Make Ready  - Making tasks in the Look Ahead period ready (i.e. constraint free) so that they can be done when the team want to do them.
- Production Planning - Collaboratively agreeing production tasks for the next period (e.g. shift, day or week) – this is often referred to as Weekly Work Planning (WWP).
- Production Management - Collaboratively monitoring production to keep activities on track, generally on a daily basis.
- Measurement, learning and continual improvement - Learning and improving project, planning and production processes so as to improve the flow and the rate of flow of the work.
 Measurement & learning
The Last Planner System has a number of measures:
- Percent Plan (or Promises) Complete (often referred to as PPC, a measure of plan reliability).
- Tasks made ready (a measure of the effectiveness of the Make Ready Process).
- Tasks anticipated (a measure of the ability of the team to anticipate the work they need to plan).
The metrics are calculated for the project as a whole. The reason for using these metrics is to learn. If the metrics are used for any other purpose than as an aid to learning and improvement their value as a learning aid diminishes as those involved start to 'game the system'.
When tasks are not completed as promised the 5Why process can be used to find the root cause of the late or early delivery and then countermeasures developed to reduce the chances that the problem will happen again. In this way learning this week is built into operations next week.
 Last Planner principles
- All plans are forecasts; all forecasts are wrong.
- The longer the forecast, the more wrong it gets.
- The more detailed the forecast, the wronger it is (first formulated by Ballard ca. 1991).
The implication of these principles are that it is important to (Ballard et al 2009):
- Plan in greater detail as you get closer to doing the work.
- Produce plans collaboratively with those who will do the work.
- Reveal and remove constraints on planned tasks as a team.
- Make and secure reliable promises.
- Learn from breakdowns.
In addition, it is important to:
- Measure promises kept (see above) and improve by learning from early, late or incomplete deliveries and workflow disruptions.
- Improve workflow as a team based on what has been learned.
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
 External references
- Lean Construction Institute
- Ballard Glenn & Gregory A. Howell (1998) Shielding Production: An Essential Step in Production Control. J Constr Eng & Proj Mgmt, 124(1) 11–17. [this is an important paper and still very relevant.]
- Ballard, Glenn (2000). Last Planner™ System of Production Control (pdf) (Ph.D.). UK: University of Birmingham. [note: LPS has moved on in the 15 years since Ballard completed his thesis – both theory and practice have developed since then.]
- Ballard Glenn & Gregory A. Howell (2003) An update on Last Planner. IGLC
- Ballard, G. , Hammond, J. & Nickerson, R. (2009) Production Control Principles IGLC
- Gregory Howell and Hal Macomber (2011) The Last Planner System: Conversations that Design and Activate the Network of Commitments LPC
- Ballard, Glenn (2014) The Last Planner System of Production Planning & Control Norway ppt.pdf
- Mossman, Alan (2015) Last Planner®: 5 + 1 crucial & collaborative conversations for predictable design & construction delivery. 36pp
- LPC (2011) Last Planner System - Just the Essentials
- Macomber Bettler (2011) Responsibility-based Project Delivery [LPC] — an agile adaptation of LPS for use in design
- Andrew Baldwin David Bordoli 2014 Handbook for Construction Planning and Scheduling App2 362-366 The Shepherd Way and Collaborative Planning [Note that this version of LPS, like many that use the terms Collaborative Planning or Pull Planning, is only a partial implementation of Last Planner. The make ready process (called 'forward planning') did not bring the whole team together and there was no explicit learning process built in. Despite this the benefits for Shepherd were significant.
 sometimes called pull scheduling, pull planning, reverse phase scheduling, collaborative planning, collaborative mapping, sticky-note planning
 sometimes called LookAhead planning [all plans look ahead!]
Featured articles and news
Watch one of the first documentaries by the acclaimed Adam Curtis, examining the substandard system building of the 1960s.
Take a look at the tech start-up that could transform construction design and communication.
This house in Barcelona uses an innovative new facade tiling system to blend into the landscape.
The origins, evolution and future of Level 3 BIM.
For new and returning Urban Design students, check out our article list divided up into the modules you'll be studying.
Report states that health of urban dwellers could be significantly improved by rethinking transport design.
The Kremlin, the centre of Russian power, includes some of the country's finest architecture.
Report launched outlining steps for a national infrastructure system that is efficient, sustainable, and delivers until 2050.
A review of Justin Bere's concise and well-presented introductory guide to Passive House.
This article describes in detail the tender process for a typical commercial construction contract.
'The filing cabinet' which was labelled one of the best British buildings of the 21st century.