Alan Mossman of The Change Business trained as an architect and worked for many years in management and organization development. He only returned to construction in 2000 building on his knowledge and understanding of collaboration, systems thinking, quality and lean. I asked Alan about the promised conversation cycle.
Related Podcast and transcription: A Lean Project Planner
Joe: One of the things that you mentioned in a very good PDF that you put out. I think it’s called “The Last Planner: Collaborative Short Term Production Planning,” is the promise conversation cycle. Can you explain to the audience what that is?
Alan: Think of a customer and a provider, or a potential provider. The customer makes a request to the potential provider. That request, in a well-run system, will initiate a conversation, a negotiation about the conditions of satisfaction of that request and the date by which those conditions of satisfaction ought to be met. As part of that conversation, the provider may need to go and talk to other suppliers of their own and have a similar conversation to this conversation that we are talking about.
If I’m the provider, I might need to go to my material’s supplier and say, “Can you supply?” Make a request and the material’s supplier then wants to clarify conditions of satisfaction, the delivery date and so on.
We get to a point where one of the three useful things can happen. The first is that I as a provider say, “Yes, I can do that.” The second is that I can say, “Yes; I can do that, provided you let me have the specification or the drawings or whatever it is that you want me to work with by this date.” There’s “yes,” “yes, if.”
The other useful response is “No; I can’t do it.” Because that’s a very clear signal to the customer that they’ve either got to change the deadline, they’ve got to change the conditions of satisfaction, or they’ve got to find somebody else who can do it. I’ve got early warning as a customer that something needs to shift.
But, let’s suppose I said, “Yes.” I then go ahead with production. I’ve made a promise, and now I set out to fulfill that promise. Once I’ve delivered on the promise, it’s important that I declare completion. When I’ve declared completion, it is a signal to the customer to show him or her that I have done what they wanted done. Hopefully, at the end of that process they will declare satisfaction.
Now, this promise cycle is completed entirely in language. There is a request, there is the negotiation, there is a promise, there is a declaration of completion, and a declaration of satisfaction or dissatisfaction as appropriate.
What is missing, in my view, in a lot of construction, is that because of the critical path method, there is not enough time spent on managing promises, managing commitments. It’s all coming from directives. You will do this. You will do that. So that the project manager is telling people what to do rather than ensuring that the people on the project understand what needs to be done, so that they are in a position to make offers and to make promises about what they will do.
The collaborative planning, collaborative programming, make ready, are foundations for Last Planners to make promises about the work that they will do next week, because they’ve got direct involvement in preparing the work to be done.
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