What is pull planning?
"An important process and tool that we utilize at HCM for many of our most complex projects is a pull planning session for each design phase. A pull planning session is a collaborative meeting that includes representatives from all the design disciplines, the CM/GC, as well as the Owner. We begin each session by starting from an established milestone (or the next project deliverable) and working backwards to the day of the “pull.” Each member of the team identifies key decisions and action items (work to be completed). These action items are written on color-coded note pads, and placed on a large printed schedule, so that each participant can see how every deliverable affects the others. This process is key to maintaining complicated schedules, as it allows each stakeholder to address the items that they may need from other members of the team in advance."
How does pull planning assist in keeping a project on schedule and under budget?
"Put simply, pull planning allows us to work through many potential problems before they happen, which minimizes schedule conflicts and unforeseen expenses or delays. Designing any building requires extensive collaboration among the project team, and pull planning is one way that this collaboration is facilitated. For example, as the architect, we want to know from the structural engineer how deep all of the framing structural elements will be in order to coordinate the above ceiling ductwork. In order to provide this information, the structural engineer needs to know from the mechanical engineer how large and heavy the roof top mechanical unit(s) will be. However, to be able to determine this information, the mechanical engineer needs to know from us, the architect, programmatic requirements of the spaces, proposed volumes of the rooms, and the R-values for the building walls, windows and roofs. During pull planning, each of these key milestone decisions are organized on the schedule, in the proper order. Going through this exercise as a team allows everyone to understand the big picture of the project and process, as well as the correlation of each item and its deadline to the others.
After the session, the pull plan is memorialized within an online spreadsheet that all team members have access to. Each week, HCM updates the plan, identifying the work completed and calling attention to action items not met. This information is distributed to the entire team, and is used as the starting point of the agenda for the weekly design team coordination meeting."
As the facilitator of these sessions, what do you have to keep in mind?
"During each pull plan, my job is to build consensus and make sure no items are forgotten. Everyone at the session is on a tight schedule, and I work to keep everyone on track so all the participants stay engaged and feel that their time is being well spent. It is important to make sure that everyone feels heard in order to gain buy-in and reach unanimity. I also am constantly running through a mental checklist for each discipline, bringing up any tasks that may have been dropped or forgotten – it is important to be as comprehensive as possible, so that the schedule runs according to plan!"