With a little bit of structure, you can make sure you are getting the most out of your weekly construction progress meetings...
Managing construction projects with weekly work plans
A weekly work plan is a detailed schedule of the work on-site over the coming week of activity. It provides a hyper-focused view of your schedule that outlines the teams needed on site, along with all the tasks to be completed and any required resources.
These plans were originally used by projects practising The Last Planner System. But even if you’re planning in a more traditional manner, weekly work plans can be a useful aid to help you stay on top of your project.
Unlike your master schedule, these weekly plans are subject to change and are designed to be more flexible. And their primary purpose is to help teams stay on top of the project from one day to the next and ease communication of the schedule between Engineers and site teams.
Schedules and work plans
Most large construction projects (last planner or otherwise) will work from an overarching schedule or plan - often called a master schedule. But they’ll also work from a variety of other versions of the plan, which provide closer, more detailed views of the project that can help you manage things at a more granular level.
Having multiple versions of the plan allows different teams to manage the project through a slightly different lens. For example: If you are a Planner working on the master schedule, you’ll be looking at the larger picture, and how mounting delays might affect the critical path.
But if you’re an Engineer, managing a small delivery team, then you’ll likely be more concerned with the things happening in the coming weeks, than the things happening this year. So a lookahead plan spanning the next month of activity might be more useful.
The name for each of these phases will vary from one project to the next. But the types of plans you have will usually be quite similar. If you’re working on a project using The Last Planner System, the structure of your plans will probably look something like this:
A high-level schedule that outlines all of the key dates, milestones, and timeline deviations. This plan is usually built during the pre-construction phase and provides a roadmap to guide everyone involved in delivering the project.
The master schedule is usually made with something like Oracle Primavera 6, or Microsoft Power Project. And on many projects, the data from the master schedule is also used to build short-term plans and lookaheads.
In phase planning, project teams work together to develop a detailed schedule that outlines the sequence of tasks required to complete the project. This view of the plan typically looks 6-12 months ahead and is essentially a plan that leads up to a key milestone or handover date.
These plans are often built in Microsoft Project and are used to help to break the master schedule down into smaller, more manageable tasks. They’re also used to determine dependencies between tasks in your plan.
The lookahead is a detailed breakdown of the high-level plan or master schedule. These breakdowns focus on shorter periods (typically ranging from 4 to 12 weeks) and allow help delivery teams to coordinate work, anticipate potential delays, and generally keep the project on track.
Within the lookahead, you’ll also find a deeper level of information about the tasks and activities scheduled to be completed in the coming weeks. This might include resource requirements, dependencies, and potential issues or risks.
Lookaheads are usually built and managed with spreadsheet software (like Excel) or with short-term scheduling software, such as Aphex.
Weekly work plans
Weekly work plans take things a step further than your lookahead, giving you and your team a focused breakdown of the tasks and activities planned over a particular week of the schedule.
They are typically much more flexible than a lookahead, and they’re used to communicate daily planned activities with the teams on site. These weekly work plans are also used to track delays and PPC.
As you’ll see below, work plans are managed in a variety of ways, and approaches can include anything from whiteboards to spreadsheets, or custom-built tools.
Why construction projects should use weekly work plans
Most projects suffer from issues with resource management, delays, and over-expenditure. But one way you can combat that is by breaking plans down and managing potential problems on a daily or weekly basis.
With weekly work plans, you give yourself and your team more opportunities to flag issues, re-organise yourselves, and restructure the week’s work before it’s too late.
Doing this should help improve workflows and improve overall site performance.
How to build your work plan
As you see further below, there are several different ways that you can visually build and display your plans. But whether you’re using spreadsheets or whiteboards, the process should look something like this:
- Make a list of all the tasks that need to be done during the week. Consider pouring concrete, framing walls, installing electrical wiring, etc.
- Estimate how long each task will take so that you can figure out how much work you can realistically get done in a week. Also, consider what resources you’ll need for each task, such as equipment, materials, and labour.
- Assign tasks to your team members based on their skills and availability. Then create a schedule that outlines when each task will be done and by whom. Make sure to leave some wiggle room in case of unforeseen delays.
- Review and adjust your plan regularly based on progress and any changes in the project.
- Communicate the plan to everyone involved in the project so that they know what’s expected of them.
Managing your work plan
The work plan should provide all of the information you need to plan work for the week ahead and measure the performance of the week prior:
- Assigned work for different teams
- Promised tasks or shifts
- Reasons for failure
- Planned corrective actions
- Your PPC score %
Throughout the week, the weekly work plan will need to be communicated with different teams member and anyone that work affects.
During these meetings (or huddles), you should discuss the planned activity for the week ahead, as well as the success and failures of the previous week and potential root causes for those issues.
It helps to have these meetings on a regular day of the week and make sure you stick to the plan you’ve laid out, rescheduling tasks that aren’t needed and optimising things and new information comes along.
The importance of communication
For your plans to work, they must be effectively communicated to everyone on site. One of the great things about the weekly work plan is that it provides you with a detailed view of your project over the coming week.
That information can be used to discuss upcoming tasks, resource requirements and potential issues during your daily huddles or with stakeholders outside your immediate team - such as Supervisors and Foreman.
These plans are often tracked and displayed using tools like:
- Sticky notes
Each project will tend to manage the process differently, but the key thing is having that information to hand and ensuring that everyone who needs to know that plan is kept up to date.
Weekly work plans can be a powerful aid to a project. But they require careful management, and it’s important that you stick to a process that works for you and your team. Managing your plans in this level of detail will help you avoid costly delays in the long run, but you need to be doing it consistently for it to work.
Above all else, remember that a weekly work plan is a communication tool. If you’re not working properly as a team, it won’t work. But if you and your team are coherent, you’ll be reaping the benefits of the process before you know it.