Construction firms have been using the Last Planner® System for almost 20 years. The situations have been relatively the same over that period. A company starts measuring reliability and they find about 50% of the tasks they plan for next week get done sometime during the week. Once they put the Last Planner practices in place the same team gets about 75% of the planned work done on the day they promised to complete the task. Most of the tasks not completed as promised still get done during the week promised. This improvement in reliability makes life better for all.

So you might think, “What happens next? What about improving reliability to 80%? 85%? 90%?” Continuous improvement is one of the two pillars of lean. However, most teams are not continuously improving reliability. Why? We don’t know for sure. We speculate that the initial performance improvement is so much better than anyone has seen before that they get complacent.

But not all teams and construction firms are like that. We know of one west coast company that routinely runs high reliability projects. How do they do it? They embrace both lean pillars — respect for people and continuous improvement. It happens in the way that project supervision interacts with the specialty contractor foremen. Rather than emphasizing the technical aspects of the project, project supervision shows up as mentors and coaches to the last planners (foremen). This shift from being the boss to being the coach allows teams to continue improving reliabilty.

Who’s in the mood to mentor foremen?