Is it Time to Drop the Percent Plan Complete Metric?

I know. Blasphemy!

The subject arose during a recent coaching session. Like many project teams, this one was diligently tracking their weekly Percent Plan Complete (PPC). And like many project teams, they were not learning from plan variances. Let’s look at a number of challenges with the way teams view and calculate PPC.

  • Teams view PPC as a score rating performance. Some owners have reportedly mandated teams maintain a 90% or higher PPC. Those projects usually fall behind schedule because the focus is on gaming the PPC number and not maintaining reliable workflow. A good way to game the number is to not commit to all the work you plan to accomplish.
  • Teams will do odd things to increase weekly PPC. At least one project considered completed workable backlog as extra credit that was then added to the number of tasks completed, without increasing the number tasks planned. This is a creative way for completing 110% of what is planned.
  • Teams stop at calculating PPC and do not spend any time studying how to prevent the reoccurrence of plan variances. Some teams will create a Pareto chart to identify the frequency of plan failures. These teams still do not invest time in understanding the failures.
  • Teams ignore other metrics such as Tasks Anticipated (TA) and Tasks Made Ready (TMR). Many people using Last Planner don’t know what those terms mean.
  • Teams celebrate high PPC weeks. The PPC number is neither good nor bad. It’s simply the opening paragraph to a story reporting the lessons a team can learn from a week of work.

So should your team be tracking PPC?

Yes, only after the team has made a commitment to do the following:

  • Investigate what can be learned from every plan variance daily. Every single one. Focus on describing how the variance occurred due to a work system design and not individual responsibility. Keep a record and publish it. Find a way to use what is learned to prevent future plan variances. Most of the time the investigation needn’t take very long. So investigate them all. You can still track categories of variance using a Pareto chart to understand trends.
  • Start tracking Tasks Made Ready (TMR). This measures the percentage of tasks in an earlier plan for a target week that can be included in a later plan, ideally the weekly work plan, for that target week. This practice encourages a robust make-ready process.
  • Start tracking Tasks Anticipated (TA). This measures the percentage of tasks in a target week, ideally the current week, which were anticipated in an earlier plan for that target week. Include tasks performed in the current week that were not on the weekly work plan in this calculation.
  • Track PPC, using PPC feedback to refine planning proficiency, not to increase the pace of work. (Maybe the pace of the work can be increased, but do not use PPC alone to make that determination.) Refining planning proficiency can be undertaken by the entire team or by individual last planners. If as a last planner you have a task that requires three days, you can refine your proficiency by planning how much work will be accomplished in each of those three days. Or if you are up to the challenge, each of those six half-days. It may not matter to the rest of the project team as long as the entire task is completed by the end of day 3, but it provides you an opportunity to study and better understand your own work.

The question really is not about whether to track or not track PPC. The question is whether your team is ready to learn from the wealth of feedback available through Last Planner. Valuable information is there, requires a little bit of work to obtain, and will reward team members with stronger professional skills and a better project experience.

Comments

Great Insight. Too many teams see a high PPC as an accomplishment rather than the number of problems identified as the benefit of their efforts. The efforts to manipulate PPC to present higher, but false outcomes, are waste. The identified variances, the subsequent problem solving to prevent the reoccurrence of plan failures, and changes in the actions and behaviors of team members to prevent these variances to future plans are the real prize of the Last Planner System.

Manage to milestones. PPC, as a secondary measurement, can be an indicator of flow in achieving the milestone. Managers need to focus on milestones, not PPC. Measuring PPC is for the team. I appreciate the focus on addressing reasons for variance and less on tracking the reasons.

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