Accountable for Outcomes: Baking ownership into construction planning

Jason Lancini, COO
Nov 30, 2021
4 min read

💡 Every task on site has people responsible for its delivery. So why do so many construction plans not reflect this?

Don't get me wrong! Project teams generally know who is responsible for the performance of each part of the master schedule. If Area 2 is not hitting targets, then everyone knows who is in the hot seat... Anthony 😉. But this ownership is rarely baked into the entire planning process.

A planning team builds the project's tender or master schedule, the engineers delivering the work build their own secret "target" lookahead plans, and when milestones inevitably move, a predictable conversation ensues.

For the engineers and construction team, the master schedule was unrealistic... built with no concept of the reality of site. What is the point of holding them to targets invented by some planners back at head office? The planners on the other hand, point out to management that there is no other option other than to hit the targets... there is little to no float left and the cost of running over erodes an already razor thin margin.

The 'rock and hard place' outcome that many projects fall into, perhaps more literally for some projects...

And this can have pretty massive impacts on the project team. The construction team is forced to attempt to deliver knowingly impossible targets, that are imposed externally on them. This laces every site win with the knowledge that 'overall we are failing' , and the healthy competition for wins can quickly become all out warfare within the construction team.

Use human nature to drive performance

The good news is that there are many great ways to avoid this outcome. In fact, I imagine that many readers of this will be thinking about how their current or previous projects have solved this through some version of lookahead planning, short term planning or a last planner process.

And that is the answer. An effective process of lookahead planning that pushes planning control to the construction team, allows them to set their own targets and drives regular review of how each of the accountable teams are tracking. Not only does this completely change the human dynamic of hitting targets I have personally committed to, but it will identify delays to the master before they happen, not after.

In software development we call using our own developed product "eating our own dog food". At Aphex, we believe that construction teams benefit from a bit of their own dog food when it comes to short term plans.

In software development we call using our own developed product "eating our own dog food". At Aphex, we believe that construction teams benefit from a bit of their own dog food when it comes to short term plans. The subconscious and intangible impact of committing to deliver a plan, seeing your name against the success or failure of it, and the personal learning either way, drives stronger teams and better projects.

Designing the right planning process

Teams that nail this do so by intentionally designing their planning process around the concept of accountability. Starting with their master schedule in Oracle Primavera P6, Asta Powerproject or Microsoft Project they enable these plans to be distributed out to engineers who can then build out a lookahead, or phase plan, to deliver the sections they are accountable for.

These agents or engineers then base their team's weekly routine around a predictable cycle of distributed planning updates, collaborative reviews, commitments and circulation of the update. Beyond this, they can use the week on week cycle to uncover early or leading indicators of project performance.

Whatever the method, whether it is PPC or another measure, every engineer, superintendent or construction manager will know what last week's performance was against their name.

The process is more important that the tools

You might expect a construction planning software company to claim the only solution is their product... but it's not.

The process is vastly more important that the tools. Projects with enough time and resources can, and do deliver an effective short term planning process using Microsoft Excel seasoned with plenty of formula and macros. At Aphex, we are focused on building tools that enable projects to drive plan accountability and performance without the overhead of part of the team devoted to data entry, spreadsheet management and dashboard building.

You know, the things that people are expensive and slow at.


Engine size doesn't matter on the road to nowhere

In other words, let's say your software is your vehicle. Excel might be stuck in the stone-age, picture Fred & Wilma putting more "sole to the soil" than "pedal to the metal". Fit for purpose software, curated with construction in mind is then our Tesla, our Bugatti Bolide, our F1 supercar.

But both are reduced to stationary, cumbersome objects without a road or a destination. Setting your process in a very human way is crucial to ensure you arrive at a point where your entire team not only adopts, but takes pride in accountability and responsibility for the plan.

Until next time, yabba-dabba-do, I guess 🤙

Jason Lancini, COO
Nov 30, 2021
4 min read