Takt Guide

Takt Planning Fable

The Fable - Flow Builders


The Director
Olivia was the youngest director at Evergreen Construction but not because she was favored or especially lucky. Her performance was almost always spot-on, and she had a rare ability to disarm even the most volatile of situations, connect with people on a deeper level, and create a sense of calm. She loved her work and her unique high energy permeated her projects. When she was on the job or over the job, everyone felt compelled towards better performance. Being a fifth-generation builder, she firmly believed that building was in her blood. By all accounts, Olivia was born to be a builder. She knew what she was doing and she expected her team to as well. Close observers in the company realized that she was destined for higher levels of success and authority, but even competitive colleagues didn’t seem to resent it—probably because she always cared for and worked with people. She was open to her team both emotionally and intellectually. When getting things done, there were never any casualties and few deviations or missteps.
Olivia took pride in her ability to leverage her team and pull in resources as necessary. She was masterful when organizing the chaos and madness of a project and turning it into a success, but right now she found herself concurrently overseeing eight projects, and her presence was stretched too thin to be effective. While her supervisors had complete confidence in her, she was becoming uncharacteristically stressed and uncertain. How could she maintain success on so many projects at once if she wasn’t physically present? How could she train and mentor others to lead these projects in a way that would replicate her stability and create a reassuring atmosphere for the teams and owners?
The Project Team
One project in particular was becoming increasingly concerning to Olivia. The one hundred and fifty-million-dollar hospital was with one of the most important clients Evergreen Construction had ever landed, OneCare Health. Olivia knew the project team was made up of some of the best at Evergreen—experienced PEs, energetic field engineers, and a hungry, motivated team of leaders that had proven unstoppable on previous projects. Brad, the superintendent, was driven and competent; he demanded respect and received it without resorting to outdated and controlling tactics. At 45, Brad knew it all—the office, the field, integration, design, and a wide range of skills. He was a genuinely superior leader. The project manager, Paul, was in his thirties, with a little less experience, but shared Brad’s passion for excellence. They were a good team and they knew what they were doing, but this would prove to be no ordinary project. Olivia was confident that both Brad and Paul were aware of the challenges that lay ahead that would test their fortitude and resilience.
The Start
The project had gone well from the start and things mobilized quickly. The team worked cohesively, and Olivia was once again credited for driving the success in overcoming project obstacles and roadblocks. In fact, she had been sold as the senior project manager on the project and was the main reason the company had won the proposal. However, as authority began to transition from Olivia to the onsite superintendent and project manager, things began to unravel. Undetectable at first, the drift toward instability became obvious as certain deadlines slipped, the team morale started to decline, and they began to have safety incidents. As new projects demanded her attention, Olivia was only able to stay with the team for about three months. Olivia and the Evergreen CEO were in agreement that Brad and Paul would have to step up.

The Trigger

Safety Reporting
Olivia was preparing for an interview with another hospital when she received a call from Jeff, the senior vice president with OneCare’s construction team. After exchanging pleasantries, Jeff broke the news that the insurance carrier safety inspection hadn’t gone well. He wanted to let Olivia know that he would be discussing the reports with a wider group of construction project managers who governed all of OneCare’s projects. The warning was loud and clear: no more safety reports or there would be no future opportunity for Evergreen Construction to partner with OneCare.
Despite the fact that Olivia should be focusing on the upcoming bid proposal and interview, Jeff’s call overshadowed everything else that day. It was difficult not to be angry about the situation; the team had all the skills they needed, they had the training, they had past successes. They had implemented Last Planner® and Scrum concepts. Contracts were in place and the best trades were selected. So what was the problem? Olivia had all the pieces to the puzzle laid out in front of her but she couldn’t fit them together.
The Interview
When the day of the proposal arrived, Olivia continued to be uneasy about the struggling OneCare project; however, she had to move forward with Evergreen’s proposal. The interview with Encompass Medical was for a one hundred-and eighty-five-million-dollar hospital—only twenty miles away from the OneCare project she was building with Brad and Paul. It would be a strategic win for the company and especially for the teams coming off other projects in eight months. Everyone felt the pressure and the burden of winning this megaproject. The additional load added to win their first landmark hospital with this client seemed almost unfair to the interview team. The entire office at Evergreen Construction had been working on this for a month, but it still felt incomplete. Olivia had concerns that the issues plaguing the OneCare hospital would have the potential to show up with this hospital as well. It was difficult to muster her usual enthusiasm, and it had begun to disrupt her sleep.
Having solidified their strategy the night before, the team was set to arrive at Encompass Medical by nine-thirty for a ten o’clock interview. Olivia was prepared with her visuals and talking points, and she soon felt a familiar and welcome sense of control. She let the energy of the day push aside her stress and worry; this had the potential to be a remarkable day. As she visualized her section of the presentation, Brad, Paul, and Abby, Evergreen’s Lean guru, arrived and began to quietly prepare as they waited for the rest of the team. Olivia was pulled from her thoughts when her phone vibrated with an incoming text from Juan, the regional scheduling manager.
So sorry. Traffic is the worst. Accident cleanup. Be there in less than ten. Olivia glanced again at her phone and saw that it was already twenty minutes till ten. Setup was supposed to happen in five minutes and the opportunity to huddle as a team to focus and center was ticking away. She obsessively checked her phone several times over the course of the next ten minutes. Her smile felt strained as she listened to the rest of the team quietly finalizing their thoughts. She was growing anxious and frustrated by this unexpected situation.
There were seven minutes to spare when Juan rushed into the room carrying his presentation supplies and visuals.
“What a nightmare! Traffic was stop-and-go the entire way. Are we okay for time?” Juan asked, red-faced and slightly out of breath.
“We have to be,” Olivia said, hoping the words didn’t come out sounding as curt to his ears as they did to hers. She was wise enough to focus on the situation and not on Juan.
As the team hurried to set up, everything they had planned was completely thrown into disarray. The Encompass Medical selection committee usually enjoyed greeting groups before the proposal interviews but had to wait in the hall while Evergreen rushed to finalize their preparation. Olivia, by now visibly agitated, scrambled to organize the members with no time to rally and refocus the group. They had no alternative but to move forward and pitch their proposal.
When the selection panel entered, the tension in the room was palpable. Abby, with her infectious laugh that often helped set the tone for the rest of the team, was oddly quiet. She’d seemed down this morning, but Olivia hadn’t taken the time to chat and now wished she would have. Juan still seemed flustered about his late arrival. The energy that Olivia had come to expect from this team was missing. No inroads were made with the stiff members of the selection panel. By the time introductions were made and everyone took their seats, Olivia was certain that Evergreen would not be asked to partner with Encompass Medical. The group wasn’t functioning as a team; they seemed more like uncomfortable strangers who had been thrown into a room together. Though Olivia and the team members began to find their footing, she had a sinking feeling that it was too late; they could not overcome their dismal first impression. She was pleased that Evergreen finished strong and left with their heads held high, but the parting “thank yous” from the selection panel seemed perfunctory, rather than congratulatory. They sounded more like goodbyes and condolences. The team just knew.
“Team, we did the best we could do, and I appreciate everyone’s efforts. We’ll wait to hear back,” Olivia said in the most positive tone as she could muster.
Juan remained by her side to talk. “Olivia, I’m so sorry I was late. That damn traffic—everyone tailgating and speeding up every chance they get. I wish I had a way to regulate the speed of every car so traffic wouldn’t get all congested and no one would get hurt. And I wish I just would have left earlier.”
She placed a reassuring hand on his arm. “It’s not your fault, Juan. I’m glad you were safe, and I appreciate you coming through. We’ll just have to wait and see what happens now.”
As the group made their way to the parking lot, Olivia began to analyze the situation. She knew not to blame people, but instinct and experience told her they were going to lose that bid; she just wished she knew why. As her mind sought an answer, she kept thinking about what Juan said about regulating drivers. There was a familiar theme with it somehow—traffic, traffic jams, being late, speeding, distance, space between—it all seemed to trigger something, but she couldn’t quite grasp it. Her intuition told her Juan might be a good sounding board to help her figure it out. He not only knew everything about CPM scheduling, he’d also had a front row seat at the interview which she was already thinking of as a complete train wreck. She hurried to catch up to him in the hallway.
“Hey, Juan, do you have time to get lunch? I’m trying to figure something out and could really use your insight.”
He smiled for the first time all morning. “Absolutely. Right now?”

The Quest

The restaurant was close to the proposal area. It was Juan’s choice although he joked about it being too casual for the meeting. They ordered and made their way to sit at a shaded table.
Olivia unwrapped her food but began talking instead of eating. “Juan, we’re failing at OneCare. Just like today at the interview. The same feeling I had when you were late this morning is the exact same feeling I get on the job when I’m not there. No offense!” she added quickly, “I didn’t mean it that way. What I meant was…”
“It’s okay. I know I helped mess things up this morning. Please, don’t apologize. It was a different atmosphere today,” he mused.
“Things were off for me even before you got there,” Olivia said. “I’ve been thinking about what you said though. Leaving early would be what we would call waste, right? You probably left at the right time but you got held up because traffic didn’t flow like it should have. That’s exactly what’s happening at OneCare. We have plenty of time and the team is pushing hard, but they’re running into a bunch of starts and stops just like you did on the way to the interview.” Olivia’s eyes widened as she made an important connection. “Do you get what I’m saying?”
Juan sat back, paused for a beat then nodded. “I hadn’t really thought about it, but now that you mention it, I remember a video for Lean training that showed a circle of traffic and what happens when one vehicle speeds up and slows down. It creates chaos through the entire circle.”
Olivia nodded in agreement. Chaos was it exactly. “The same thing we had in our meeting today.” She took a bite of her burger, thinking as she chewed. “Going too fast or too slow causes irregularities in the traffic. What’s the equivalent of starting and stopping on the project site? We’ve implemented Last Planner® and Scrum on our project just like we do on all our other projects. And I think the systems seem to be functional.”
Juan nodded his agreement. They ate without speaking for a few minutes until Juan spoke. “Maybe I could go over to OneCare and do some looking around. Maybe there’s a part of the process they aren’t implementing right.”
Olivia loved the idea immediately. “Absolutely! Our weekly work planning meeting starts at one. Can you make it?”
Juan gathered his trash. “You really want this figured out, huh?”
“I do! In fact, I think I’ll cancel my next appointment and go with you. I feel like we need to follow up on this right away.”
“Hold on now. Can I at least refill my drink first?” Juan joked.
The Weekly Work Planning Meeting
As she drove, Olivia made a quick call to Paul, the PM, to request that he join her in the meeting. When she arrived, the room was a blur of orange and yellow safety vests, with some still wearing their hardhats. She was glad there were enough empty chairs around the conference table that she, Paul, and Juan could sit without anyone having to go find extras. Brad’s puzzled look at her presence disappeared as he got down to business.
Raising his voice above the noise in the room, Brad called the meeting to order. “Welcome, everyone. A lot of you know Olivia, our project director. Also, Paul, our PM, we’re glad you could make it. Team, this is Juan, our regional scheduling manager. I’m not exactly sure why they’re here, but welcome. Okay, so to start off the meeting, let’s do our positive shout-outs.”
After about 20 seconds of awkward silence, Terence, the plumbing foreman spoke up, “Well, one good thing is our material showed up on time for once. That’s a positive.”
Everyone laughed a little. They were all aware of the inconsistent deliveries.
“Anyone else?” Brad asked. “Alright, we can move forward. We’ll start out with our constraint board and see where we’re at. Terence, thanks for sharing your shout-out. Can you start with your constraints?”
Terence pulled his hardhat from his head as though he’d just remembered he was still wearing it. “I hate to be so negative, but my constraints are the same as they were yesterday, and nothing has changed. I still don’t have coordination for Building B, SOG area B, and I need RFI 43 and 44 back to continue in A. And, I entered in my tags for today’s meetings, but I can’t commit to any of them unless I get that information.”
“Well, we really need you to commit during these meetings. If you’re not the one that can commit, we need someone here who can.” Brad was usually pretty composed, Olivia thought, but with his bosses in the room he may have felt the need to wield a little power and look assertive.
“Like I said, give me the information I need and tell my office to get me the materials, and I can commit!” Terence wasn’t backing down.
“It isn’t my responsibility to get you answers and procure your material. Isn’t your company in charge of both?” asked Brad pointedly.
“Sure it is, but the schedule always changes,” Terence said. “How do you expect them to get that to me when it’s a moving target?”
Olivia was surprised at how quickly the mood had deteriorated. The trade leaders had become visibly tense after Terence’s comments. From that time on, it was clear to Olivia that they were only going through the motions waiting for the meeting to end.
People Problems
After the meeting, Olivia thanked Juan for coming, said she would talk to him soon, and waited for everyone to disperse before she approached Brad. She knew him well enough to know that it was best to be direct with him, mirroring his own style of communication. She wanted to understand the contention she’d just witnessed.
“It seems like you’re struggling with these trade partners, Brad. Why is there so much tension?”
He gave a slight shrug. “I wish I could tell you. There isn’t a lot different about this project than the last one, except this is a phased design and twice as big. I’ve implemented Last Planner® just like we did on the last one, but it just isn’t working. The trades just don’t get it. It may be time to talk to their company bosses if it doesn’t get better.”
Olivia considered the idea. “If it comes to that, I’ll be supportive of that effort. But I’d like to see if we can work out a solution before we take that approach.”
Brad nodded. “Okay. In the meantime, we’ll just keep pushing forward.” Brad’s support increased Olivia’s determination to help find the solution.
His phone rang and he quickly pulled it out of his pocket to look at it. Olivia could tell it was a call he needed to take. “I’ll let you get back to it,” she said, anxious now to get back with Juan to get his thoughts. She dialed his number before she left the building, and they spoke as she drove the short distance to her office.
“Hello, Olivia. Were you able to find anything out?” Juan asked.
“Brad feels like the trouble at OneCare is a people problem. The trade partners just aren’t buying in and playing nice.”
“I got that impression,” Juan said, “but there may be something more going on here besides big egos and bad attitudes. This project is pretty large and complex. It might take a little more digging to get to the real cause.”
“Are you volunteering to grab a shovel?” Olivia asked.
Juan laughed. “I’d like to see what we could uncover, but we might both be a little too busy to sort this out right now. The question is, do we ask the leadership team for help?”
“I will absolutely be discussing this in our next meeting, but we can’t just dump this on them. We need to strategize and build a plan. I’ll give you a call this evening to hash some ideas out. In the meantime, I’ll speak to Brian.”
“That sounds like a good idea. I’ll keep working on it until then.”
“Thanks, Juan. I appreciate your help.”
When she was settled at her desk, Olivia called Brian, Evergreen’s CEO. She kept him informed about her work and he did all he could to be supportive and enable her success. He’d told her on more than one occasion that he valued her transparency.
It took her a few minutes to line up all her thoughts and explain her concerns to him, but he didn’t interrupt until she wound down.
“This has been on my mind ever since the warning from OneCare over the safety reports. But I trust you’re working on a plan. I don’t have to tell you what a high priority this is.”
“I don’t have a clear direction yet. I just wanted to circle you in and assure you that I’m working on it. l will update you as we move forward. How does that work?”
“Sounds good. Thanks, Olivia.”
The Consultant
Olivia stole a moment between meetings to give her husband a quick call, but when she saw that Juan was phoning she ended with an “I love you” and “Talk to you later.” She was grateful her husband supported her hectic work schedule; she did not take him for granted.
Juan began speaking before she could even say hello. “This is Juan, the master scheduler, calling to tell you about a genius idea.”
Olivia laughed. “I thought we were going to talk about this later this evening.”
“I didn’t think it could wait. I’ve been tracking this guy, David, on LinkedIn. He’s a consultant from Elevate Construction and does a lot with operations—especially with field operations. He’s also a CAPAPro member with The Table Group—you know, Patrick Lencioni’s company? Anyway, he does organizational health and team building consulting, and I’m thinking he might be able to shed some light on our problems.”
Olivia liked what she was hearing. Juan was sharp and she was glad she had enlisted his help. “It’s certainly worth a phone call. The job can afford for us to get some help, but I would need to know that he’s a fit for what we’re trying to do. I’m out of my meetings by four. Can you set up a call for us then?”
“Sure! I half expected you to say that you were ready right now, but four should work. I’ll call him now and see if I can get something set up.”
The Phone Call
Olivia took a swallow from her water bottle and tried to clear her mind when she heard her phone vibrate. She wanted Elevate Construction to be the answer to their problems. So many people’s lives were affected by this project. It was so important to her to be respectful of all the crews and their families and that meant finding a way to be successful.
She took a deep breath. “This is Olivia.”
“Hi Olivia,” Juan said. He sounded happy. “David is on the line with us.”
“How are you, Olivia?” David asked, warmly.
“I’m fine, thank you. I appreciate you jumping on a call with us on such short notice.”
“Not a problem. I’m happy to help. Please, explain what’s going on.” David’s voice had an unmistakable energy and excitement that she was grateful to hear.
“Well, we’re a company that has quite a bit of experience with Last Planner® and Lean. I think we usually do pretty well with our project scheduling systems, but we have one team that is really struggling. It’s our largest project and the owner is a VIP for us so we just can’t have this thing fail. We need someone who knows how to get them working together, and it has to be soon. I just don’t have the time to devote to this without some help.”
“Olivia is over eight projects right now, and this is out of my wheelhouse. We definitely need help,” Juan agreed.
“Is this the kind of work you do at Elevate?” Olivia asked David.
“Absolutely,” David said. “Juan told me you’re both Patrick Lencioni fans. I’m glad you’re familiar with his work. We do quite a bit of organizational health and team building consulting based on his methods.”
Olivia suddenly felt a whisper of relief. “That sounds great. How soon could you visit with us?”
“I knew you were going to say that,” Juan joked.
David laughed. “I generally start with a team visit to assess needs, and then we go from there. I need to be sure that I can add value before we go too far.”
“Fair enough,” Olivia said. It definitely sounded like they were on the same page. “Are you available at two o’clock tomorrow afternoon? Juan, will that work for you?”
“That works for me.” Juan answered.
“Sounds good to me as well,” David said. “Send me the address, and I’ll see you then.”
Hiring Elevate
David was in the middle of some family time when Olivia phoned. They were in the backyard playing so he stepped inside the kitchen and closed the sliding glass door. “This is David.”
“Hey, David, how are you?” came Olivia’s voice.
“Good! I’m excited about our meeting tomorrow.”
“That’s actually what I was calling about. The OneCare team has had to postpone their project kick-off trip multiple times, and it’s been rescheduled for this weekend. I was thinking you could come whitewater rafting with us and really get to know everyone in an informal setting.”
“So…by informal, you mean deadly?
Olivia laughed, “Our motto is ‘Mildly life-threatening with team building overtones.’ We haven’t killed anyone yet, but you will be sore when it’s over!”
“Unfortunately, I’m free this weekend,” David said. “I’d rather be doing anything else, but I do want to get to know the team. It’ll actually be helpful to see how everyone acts in such a challenging situation.”
“So you’re in?”
“I’m in. I already regret it, but I’m in,” David said, lightheartedly.
“Oh, good! I hope you love it. Let’s cancel tomorrow’s meeting and I’ll email you all the info for the trip later tonight. You know, after our call I did some digging into your website and YouTube channel. I love your content. I’m sure you’re a good fit. To be honest, I would hire you right now, but Juan told me not to push too hard. So let’s see how the weekend goes, okay?”
“Sounds good, Olivia. I’ll do my best to add value before I drown in the river.”
“Ha! I’ll be sure to take notes!”
Olivia sounded more confident than she had during their previous conversation. David was excited about the opportunity to work with Evergreen, but he felt the need for caution as well. Olivia had wanted to move fast through the initial call and consultation, which indicated big issues. David was confident in his ability to help solve problems, but he knew he could face a possible combination of stubbornness, pride, and even fear that would be an obstacle to them accepting his help.

The Surprise

The Trip
On the way up to the rafting tour’s headquarters, David and Olivia talked about her experience, the status of the projects she oversaw, and some of the background behind the problems they were facing at OneCare. Once the entire team was assembled, the guide began his safety instruction and everyone rechecked their gear and supplies. The group then rode the shuttle to the launch site. David took the opportunity to watch the team which consequently took his mind off his own trepidation about the rapids. And there was trepidation. Though he and his wife had lived in the area for over twelve years and taken their kids on many outdoor adventures, they had never been whitewater rafting. Their older kids would love it though. They had been excited for him to go. That thought gave him a boost of confidence in the experience. Maybe he would enjoy it enough to put it on the family adventure list. It was so much cooler up in the woods, which would be a nice break from the Phoenix temperatures, and it was only three hours from home.
The more David watched Olivia’s team, the more he appreciated the characteristics he was witnessing. They were confident, safe, open, and high functioning. Even the project engineers would joke with Olivia, and there did not seem to be any excessive hierarchy among them. As he observed, he began to rule out that it was an Evergreen team issue. Even Brad seemed like a remarkable leader—all too unusual in a superintendent. David had no clear idea what the root of the problem was but was pleasantly surprised that there wasn’t a lot of unhealthy contention within the group. As a consultant, his job could involve heavy pressure when pointing out specific individuals.
All too soon it was time to put in. David tried to be at ease despite the cold water, massive rapids, and the worry of falling out and getting trapped underwater. He tamped down his fear, cleared his mind, and chose to live in the moment. And the moment turned out to be beautiful.
David quickly caught the enthusiasm of the other passengers. He found himself in the midst of nature with all its wildness, danger, and excitement. Peace and adrenaline came by turns. The sudden change in speed that came with the rapids was like nothing he’d ever experienced.
“I can’t believe how fun that was! I was so freaked out at first, but man, that was a blast! I can’t wait to go again!”
“I’m so glad you’re having fun. And you survived to tell about it!” Olivia teased.
“I’ve never felt so much exhilaration in so much chaos. We could’ve flipped over at any minute, but I felt that adrenaline kick in and I was in the zone!”
“That’s what happens every time I go,” Olivia said. “For me, the rush comes from being near the danger. That’s why I do white water rafting; calm rivers are no fun. You don’t know when you’re about to come up against a rock; you’re always ready for anything. You knock into something and you trust the guide and then eventually, you’ll start to be able to trust your own skills.”
David thought about what Olivia had said as the guide walked them through packing up. He thought about the rush, the exhilaration, and how it was more exciting because there was an element of danger involved. He thought about the correlation to people who worked well under intense pressure from deadlines or procrastinating. She’d said, “The rush comes from being near the danger.” He thought he could put that idea to very good use.
The Campfire
They arrived at the Airbnb, ate dinner, and eventually gathered around the campfire out back. David continued to study the dynamics of the team and their individual personalities. He understood that this trip was originally intended to celebrate the team’s success in kicking off the project after design, but it did not seem clouded by the struggles they had been facing lately. Discussions were animated as they deliberated the contributions and vision of the team. This was clearly a united group. Their cohesion had been evident while rafting and throughout the night’s activities. The team members seemed adept at understanding each other’s roles, holding each other accountable, and didn’t seem to take offense when hard things were said. It was remarkable to watch and confirmed to him that Evergreen took training and skill building seriously. David continued to feel the problem lay beyond the team gathered here tonight.
It was a pleasure to watch the team celebrating their accomplishments and lining out their next steps and team goals. Afterwards, Olivia dismissed the team with her appreciation for them and for such a wonderful day. As she, Brad, and David tightened their circle around the fire, the mood shifted in anticipation of discussing the issues that necessitated David’s presence.
“You have an impressive team, Olivia. They are high performing and seem to have organizational health under control.” David said sincerely. “They’re a great group.”
“Thank you, David. I have no doubt this team is doing all they can. I owe it to them to figure out what’s going on. It really could be that the trades aren’t performing. I know my team is doing all they can.”
Brad added a log to the fire and backed away as sparks flew up. “If you ask me, I think the biggest challenge we have is with our trades,” he said. “They’re just not buying into the system we’ve put in place. I’m not used to the insubordination. Olivia, do you remember that Lean training we did?”
“How could I forget? It was hard enough to get you to go in the first place. I practically had to drag you there.” Olivia smiled at him.
“Do your arms ever get tired from holding that over my head?” Brad asked, making them both laugh. “But seriously, remember that analogy of the river of waste they showed us? They said lowering the water level would help the team to see and remove roadblocks, but I’ve been thinking about it, and I’m not sure that’s it.”
Brad poked at the fire with a stick. The embers glowed with a bright orange light. David zipped his coat up. The temperature was dropping.
Brad continued his train of thought. “At OneCare, we’re running with minimal resources and it doesn’t help identify roadblocks. We’re still riddled with problems and obstacles and once we hit one, the water level doesn’t stay low—or in our case, the resources don’t stay low. Our resources have to actually increase based on the need to get past the roadblock. Then we don’t have time to get rid of the roadblock anyway because we don’t see it in enough time. It’s just like rafting today. You don’t know you’re heading towards a rock until you’re right on top of it because you can’t see it, and if you had any less water, the river would be like a stream, and we couldn’t raft in the first place.”
“That’s great!” said David, excitedly. Brad had hit on something important. “Sorry to interrupt, but I think I’ve got it. I’ve always had a hard time with that Lean analogy too. It’s not the level of the water that needs to be adjusted, it’s the stability and flow. Here’s what I mean—of course you don’t want too much water, meaning too much excess and wasted resources. But you don’t improve the team by reducing the water level, you improve by adjusting the flow and calming the water. I know that doesn’t really work in real life, but for the analogy’s sake stay with me.” David paused for a moment. “Brad, why couldn’t you see the rocks?”
“Because we were going so fast that even when a rock was protruding, it was covered by the speed and force of the water. Everything was too chaotic to see them so we couldn’t prepare for the rocks or avoid them.”
“Exactly!” David said. “Even if the water level was lower, you have still been going too fast to navigate around the rocks. But slowing the speed of water and calming the chaos would’ve allowed you to see them. You would have seen the rocks if the water were clear and calm, right?”
“For sure! I like that concept,” said Brad, and Olivia nodded.
“I’ve always hated the idea of lowering the water level because that leads to slash and burn management which I think gives Lean a bad name,” Olivia said. “What we need is stability. And to adjust the flow.”
“For me, that solidifies why Takt systems work so well,” David said.
“Are you saying tact?” Olivia questioned. “As in t-a-c-t?
“Takt, as in capital T-a-k-t,” David replied.
Brad and Olivia were both leaning forward, the light of the campfire illuminating their faces. Both waited expectantly for David’s next words.
“Takt is taken from an older German word that basically means rhythm or beat. It describes a planning method based on cycle time or Takt time. It’s the primary scheduling system I use. Takt is a system where you schedule the right flow and pace into the project and that stability allows the team to focus on removing roadblocks. But it’s not reducing resources that allows the team to see and remove roadblocks, it’s stabilizing and adjusting the pace. If we rafted on a clear, calm river with the same amount of water at a better pace, we could have seen the rocks and simply gone around them.”
“True, but that would’ve been boring.” said Brad.
“That’s just it,” David said eagerly. He’d made an important connection. “Something Olivia said to me today got me thinking. You said, ‘the rush comes from being near the danger.’”
“I did say that,” Olivia smiled.
“I think we get addicted to going fast and dealing with chaos because it gives us a high. And even if it’s not a rush of adrenaline, it’s the rush of feeling busy and productive, needed and important. But ultimately, it’s all waste. I think we should take a good look at the project pace and stability. I was shocked to see how well this team works together and now I’m uncomfortable assuming the problem is with the team and the trade partners. I’m wondering now if the team is just going too fast and addicted to the rush of the chaos.
“Are you a part of the team now?” Brad asked.
“I’ve asked him to come by and be a set of fresh eyes.” Olivia looked at David. “I really think you can help us find our problem.”
Brad nodded. “I think you might be right. I’d love to fix these issues before we get any further along. No one wants this thing to crash and burn.”
David was glad to know that Brad was open to accepting help. It would set the tone for when David would be introduced as a consultant to the rest of the team and trade partners. David wasn’t sure he had thoroughly explained how the rafting analogy tied in with Takt, but he hoped that it opened the door for Olivia and Brad to see things from a new angle. The moment had certainly left an impression on him. He just didn’t know how applicable it was yet.
When David got to OneCare on Monday morning, he tried to be objective about his observations. Brad was busy fighting fires, answering questions, and solving problems—all predictable actions based on the trouble the project was having. As David made his way around the site, he saw that the project was well-designed and fairly organized. There were about one hundred and twenty people currently onsite. At its peak, the project would have three hundred and eighty workers. David could see there was care there, but it wouldn’t safely sustain the increase of workers. The site was a little cluttered and not clean enough. Cleanliness was always a key indicator of project success and a clear signal that the project had some fundamental issues. David moved on to inspect the porta-potties. Three out of four were a disgusting mess, and there was a significant amount of graffiti.
It was evident to him that the project workers were not happy. That fact was reaffirmed as David watched the concrete crew putting in work. They seemed rushed and frustrated and spent a significant amount of time and effort moving around and finding supplies. It was an uncoordinated frenzy to get things placed. The bottom line was that they were going too fast and the project wasn’t especially stable.
After observing the team in action for a few days, it was clear that dates would shift from week-to-week. The implementation of Last Planner® by the interior and exterior teams and Scrum for the medical equipment team was well organized, but they were rendered inefficient with the instability of the master schedule. No team, no matter how proficient they were, could thrive in an environment when the target is always moving. The project was simply moving too fast and was too chaotic. There might have been other unforeseen complications, but it seemed that his initial suspicions about the project were correct. David was hopeful that an adjusted pace would stabilize the project and give the team and their Lean systems a chance to be successful. Takt would be the best solution; however, implementing it mid-project would be hard on the onsite team. David was excited for the opportunity.
The Problem
“David, it’s good to see you again. Have you recovered from rafting?” Olivia asked as David entered the room for their ad hoc meeting that Friday afternoon. He was carrying his supplies and unusual visual aids that included two 2-liter water bottles and a large plastic bucket. “I think today is the first morning I haven’t been sore. But I absolutely loved rafting. I already booked an excursion to take my boys. It was both painful and life altering…probably the way my suggestions for this project will be.”
While some in the room raised their eyebrows and glanced around, Olivia just laughed at his announcement. “Please share,” she said. “Everyone is here and has been brought up to speed. We’re ready for your assessment and to know the reason you’re carrying such large water bottles.”
“I’m kind of thirsty,” Paul said.
David smiled. He hadn’t seen much of Paul onsite but knew that he was the project manager. “First, I’d like to start with a demonstration. I need two volunteers and someone to keep the time.”
“You know I’m in,” said Juan. As the regional scheduling manager, he didn’t often work onsite, but he’d already told David he was interested in learning from him. He also said when he’d initially suggested hiring Elevate, he didn’t know what to expect, but his intent was to leverage success by outsourcing problems beyond his scope of work. David appreciated his candor and his willingness to take a risk.
“I haven’t really been available all week so I’ll be a team player and raise my hand,” said Brad.
“I can keep the time,” Paul called out as he held up his phone.
“Thanks, team. Brad, can you please take this bottle? And Juan, you take this one. The point of this exercise is to pour the water into the bucket the fastest, without squeezing the bottle. We’ll have Brad go first.”
“I’ve got this,” said Brad, turning the bottle over with an exaggerated flourish.
David laughed. “Your enthusiasm is infectious and your form is awesome, but you were supposed to wait until I said go. Paul, were you rolling when he did that?”
“Yep. It took ten seconds.”
“Okay, ten seconds. That’s good. Juan, when you tip yours over, I want you to gently swirl the bottle around and create a vortex inside like a tornado.”
“Isn’t that cheating?” Juan asked.
“Well, it isn’t really a race; it’s just a demonstration of two techniques. You ready? Okay, go!”
The team’s interest was piqued when Paul called out, “Five seconds!”
There was laughter at Brad’s disappointed shrug. “I never had a chance. I’m sitting down,” Brad joked as he took his seat.
David looked around at the surrounding faces. “Okay, so what happened?”
“We don’t know,” said Paul, “but Juan’s better at it!”
“Hey, my bottle was rigged!” Brad protested.
“I promise it wasn’t rigged, but what kept him from winning?” David asked the group.
“The air. It kept holding back the water and slowed it down,” Olivia said.
“Exactly. Think of it like this: the air is like roadblocks and the water is the product. The roadblocks kept starting and stopping the work because you were trying to push it through all at once.”
“So why did Juan’s go so fast? It can’t just be because he’s the schedule master with genius ideas,” Olivia teased.
“I’m glad you asked,” replied David. “What did you observe in the second attempt? Let’s consider what Juan did that was different.”
“Well, when he spun it, it created a vortex.” Olivia was catching on quick. “The water left room for air to come up by heading in a common direction.”
“Exactly,” said David. “When we get the product heading in a stable direction, in a flow, and create a pace or space for roadblocks to rise to the surface, work—-or water, in this case—can proceed unhindered.” He could feel the team was on the verge of a breakthrough.
“How does that apply to this project?” asked Juan.
“I know it’s been tossed around, but I don’t think you have a people problem here. I think this is a problem with flow. To be candid with you, the team is not headed in the same direction. The plans change, those changes get pushed through, then every roadblock slows down the work and creates variation. I think your problem is exactly what we talked about at our offsite. You need to regulate the pace of the project, create stability, and then your problems will rise to the surface faster and you can remove them before they impact work. What you need is Takt.”
He paused to let them reflect for a moment before he continued. “You have masterfully implemented Last Planner® and Scrum with your medical equipment teams, but those systems, and more importantly your team, cannot win this game when the goal changes every day. Design, procurement, the schedule, and the start of work all need to be leveled and stabilized, and Takt is the only way to do that. That is why your trades can’t commit and meet dates or even enjoy the system. The supply chain is not stable, and we are going too fast. Have you ever heard the quote ‘Flow where you can, pull where can’t?’ You have pull, and you know how to push, but you need to start first with flow. Your scheduling system is broken and needs an immediate fix.”
David sat quietly as he listened to the OneCare team discuss the presentation and the possible need to implement an entirely new system. While there was no outright opposition, he got the feeling that there were team members who were not sold on the validity of his assessment. The team eventually decided to give it the weekend before any decisions were made.
Olivia looked at David and said, “Now that you’ve explained it a little bit, we’d like you to present a more detailed plan for implementation of Takt. We need to see what that would look like. Is that doable?
“Absolutely! I’ll be ready.” David could see that he had their attention, and from some of them, their support. It would be interesting to see how things would play out on Monday.
When Olivia was home with her family that weekend, true to her nature, she was energetic and completely engaged. During her downtime, she was able to set her work life aside and focus on her family. And that Saturday morning meant planning, studying, and engineering. Josie, her 4-year-old, was the most important and truly the most demanding project owner she had ever worked with. The wooden railway system was complex and required all of Olivia’s attention and Josie’s change orders meant that construction was perpetually ongoing. As a reward for her hard work and for this current, awesome design, Josie let her mom play with the pink engine for a bit. They circled the trains through the loops and onto the sidings, added freight cars, and shunted them back and forth to the stations and roundhouses. Trying to stay mentally engaged, Olivia made a crashing noise and toppled a tree onto the track just ahead of where Josie was headed with her gray engine and line of six freight cars.
“Oh no! Lightning knocked over that tree!” Olivia said. “What will you do?”
Josie looked up in surprise by the unexpected occurrence, “I’m gonna push it out of my way, mama,” and she continued on as the wooden tree was easily pushed aside.
Olivia posed a harder problem this time as she placed several of the wooden animals from the train sets on the track. “The animals broke through the fence. You’re going to have to go back!”
“Mama, this cowcatcher can push them off the track. Get outta my way!” she yelled as she plowed them off the line.
Olivia watched, questioning whether Thomas the Tank Engine would have approved of Josie’s strategy for handling of the blocked line, but also thinking about the intended purpose of this alleged cowcatcher. After a quick internet search, she was surprised to see that Josie was right; that iron guard was designed to clear obstacles. Olivia filed that concept away and returned her focus to Josie. In her zealous track clearing, she had knocked over the suspension bridge and repairing it was the top priority.
The Meeting
On Monday afternoon, the OneCare project leadership team assembled ready to discuss the possible implementation of Takt. With plenty of time over the weekend, everyone had reflections on how to implement Takt and assumptions about what it was. Olivia was eager to share the insight she had gained while playing with Josie.
“I appreciate everyone clearing their schedule to be here. We have lots to discuss and plenty to think about. I’ve got some insights and news to cover, but first I’d like to let David walk us through what implementing Takt could mean for this project.”
“Thanks, Olivia,” David said as he positioned himself next to the projector’s screen. “The word Takt means rhythm; it indicates the beat or the rate of flow for something. Takt planning is essentially a planning system that incorporates flow, stability, and a certain amount of predictability. If you use this system for preparing work and setting milestones for the Last Planner® and Scrum teams, they will have targets they can hit and a game they can win.
“This slide shows a Takt plan for the interiors of a building. As you can see, each 10,000 square foot area is broken out into sequences by Takt zone. Each of these are designed to stagger which means area A starts on the first week of August, area B starts on the third week of August, and we hold the dates.”
“Hold the dates? What does that mean?” Brad interrupted.
“Well, that means we don’t move the dates around unless the team decides together that it can be done and that it needs to be done,” David answered.
“We will never get anything finished like that.” replied Brad as he sat back in his chair and visibly disconnected.
David pressed on in spite of losing the super. “When you move dates in a schedule like this, trades begin to bring out too many materials and we then have an excess of material inventory. When we’ve got too much inventory, we spend so much time managing it that we don’t get enough time to actually install the work. The same concept applies to managing a chaotic schedule. If we’re always managing the variation that comes from a changing schedule, we’re distracted from seeing and removing any roadblocks that occur. We have to have the right pace and stability that comes from Takt in order to pre-plan and make work ready. You see, when there’s a bunch of chaos, all we can see is the rough water. We can’t see the rocks. To be blunt, CPM doesn’t really work, and it pushes us into a frenzied, chaotic rush.”
“Hold on a minute; I make a living using CPM,” said Juan.
“I understand why you’re feeling defensive. This is all new information, but it’s the truth; the proper use of Takt will fix this. If we still need to use CPM because it’s a requirement, at the very least we need to align CPM with the Takt flow and rhythm. Let me show you what this looks like. Do you see these processes on each row here? This is the sequence of activities in a 10,000 square foot area for the interiors of this hospital. This next line starts two weeks later and represents the next 10,000 square foot area on the floor. The columns are weeks and the rows are areas or zones. The colored boxes in the sequences are activities. You can see how each trade flows in a consistent way through the building one after the other.”
“I would like to interject something here,” Olivia said. “This weekend I was playing trains with my daughter. I started tipping over trees and putting things on the track in her way, and she kept going through them. Do you know what she told me? She said the cowcatcher—yes, I had to look that up because I don’t watch as much Thomas and Friends as she does— but anyway, the cowcatcher is the triangular attachment at the front of the engine that’s used to clear the path, to clear the track. David, your sequence looks a lot like a train. Another thing is that trains start and stop on time and they arrive at the station in a certain rhythm. Do you think that we could use a train analogy instead of the river?”
“I love that!” said David. “Let’s turn it into a train analogy. Let me regroup for a moment. Okay, so flow as a train…” he began as Olivia turned back to her notes.
“So here’s how we can explain it. Each of these processes, by 10,000 square feet, are trains now. In fact, let’s call them Takt trains. Each of the scopes of work—let’s call those Takt freight cars or wagons.” The team seemed to pay more attention as he wrote this on the whiteboard. “If the Takt train is the process, then the front engine is the preparation team making that area ready. The cowcatcher at the front is the roadblock removal system. For this system to work, we have to clear the tracks.
“The tracks are operations, meaning the foundation. The rails, meaning the thing that really makes Takt go fast, are prefabrication. Leveling the track in the first place is key to keeping a good pace. Roadblocks need to be removed ahead of the train and would-be hills and valleys need to be leveled. If there are mountains, these are constraints—these are the things that we just have to work around.”
“I’m really starting to see it,” Olivia spoke up with excitement in her voice. “I’m glad I didn’t derail you by forcing the train issue.”
“If changing it to a train didn’t, your little joke probably did,” Juan teased.
“Not at all. I’m still picking up steam.” David smirked at the groans. “But seriously, for this analogy to work, we need a few more definitions. The speed of the train is the Takt time and the rate at which the trains arrive at the next station is called throughput. You see, the key is to get each car going at the right speed in a stable environment which means a level track headed toward the next station at a consistent rate. If we do that, it isn’t chaotic. If we keep the system moving just like a trainyard, then all of your short interval systems will work predictably.” He paused to let them absorb everything.
“What I’m proposing is that we create a master project Takt plan that shows when every Takt zone will be completed in a rhythm. This will unify everyone and get people working to the same rhythm. Workers, materials, information, and ultimately the completion of design—if we can get everything working to the same beat, then all the resources will be available for your Last Planner® and Scrum systems. All the day-to-day planning will be easy because those systems have predictable supply chains and the things they need. Right now, you plan well together, but the absence of resources always slows you down and interrupts your plans. No matter how well you do with Last Planner® and Scrum, you will not succeed until you have a predictable supply chain. All those systems need is Takt to succeed.
“Using Takt means that you will have the time to remove roadblocks in a system like this, and enough time to finish as you go. Implementing it will not be easy, and you’ll have to move now.
“One more thing,” David added. “Takt is only one part; there are meeting systems and certain operational tactics we would need to implement to really gain time out in the field. Everyone would need to buy in and understand these as well.”
As the team listened to David explain the meeting system, worker conditions, and operations onsite, they began to get a clear picture of what the next steps would hold. He was suggesting a complete overhaul starting with respectful field conditions for workers, stabilizing all operations, and continuously improving.
Olivia took a moment to add the new expectations to her growing list. She was surprised that she wasn’t overwhelmed by the proposed changes. Instead she was grateful that David had an actual plan to solve their problems. Everyone on the team was putting in a massive amount of effort on a daily basis and it seemed like Takt would give the team optimal output.
Olivia made some train analogy notes:
“I thought the point of this meeting was to figure out how to fix the trade partners.” Brad’s annoyance was apparent and predictable. “This sounds like we are scrapping all our current systems, everything we’ve been working on, just to cater to a few bad foremen. It doesn’t make any sense; we know what we’re doing. They need to fall in line.”
“They aren’t bad foremen,” Olivia replied. “I’m beginning to understand that we’re always putting them into impossible situations. We could do a better job which would enable them.”
“Construction is full of impossible situations. You name a job where there aren’t problems scheduling materials!” Brad countered.
“You’re absolutely right, but we need to do a better job at giving them a fighting chance at success.”
“Olivia, I just don’t know how you can build a job by ‘holding dates.’ We need to push this job to completion, and our foremen, and everyone in this room, needs to get on board and just get it done.”
Olivia knew enough to know that she needed a new approach. She paused to collect her thoughts, not wanting her news to be the tipping point. She’d really been hoping Brad would grasp the vision, but she understood that he could be feeling attacked.
“One last thought,” David interjected. “We need to flow where we can, pull when we can’t, and stop pushing. Right now, we’re pushing all the time. Flow is the key to turning this project around. Remember the river analogy: It’s not raising and lowering the water level that we need, and we don’t need faster water. We need a stable and steady flow. If we have that, we can see and then remove roadblocks because roadblocks are what’s slowing this project down and costing you money. Flow where you can, pull when you can’t, and stop pushing.” David knew he was being presumptuous, but they weren’t paying him to make friends. His job was to see what they couldn’t see when they were knee deep in it and figure out the best way to get them out this mess and prevent the next one.
Olivia appreciated his frankness and knew it was time to give everyone a reason to unify. “Team, I had a difficult conversation this afternoon. Jeff spoke to Brian this morning. David, Jeff is the senior VP over OneCare. We won’t be shortlisted for any future work until we’ve come up with a permanent solution to the problems we’ve been having. Evergreen’s image is suffering, our reputations are on the line, and there is no easy way out of this. I want everyone here tomorrow morning at eight, ready to make a decision, weigh in, and buy in completely. I’m meeting Brian for lunch, and I want to give him our plan.”

The Critical Choice

The Discussion
Olivia signaled for Brad to wait. She hoped the privacy would allow her to draw him out and understand his obstinance. Olivia needed him to be supportive. “Brad, what exactly is the problem with this?”
“It just feels like you’re throwing away all the work that we’ve done. Everything we’ve built together for the last seven years. We’ve always gotten through stuff like this and now one owner complains about some setbacks and you’re willing to back down and change everything we do!”
“I think I understand how you feel,” she said calmly. “I’m not trying to throw away anything we’ve done; I want to build on it. Brad, you have never run a project of this size before. Consider the possibility that you just need a few key pieces to expand your network and keep going with what makes you successful.”
“So you’re essentially saying I can’t figure this out.”
“Of course not! Brad, please don’t do that. I’m saying that I needed help, so I reached out. Just like when we needed Lean training and we all went. Now we need Takt training so we’ll all get it. And we’re going to learn it together so that should be fun right?” she teased, trying to soften her message.
“It’s just that it feels like the job just started and I’ve already lost.”
“I don’t see it that way at all. To me, this is what winning looks like—recognizing that we are losing a battle and changing our defense and offense so that we are fighting smarter, not just harder. This is what we need to turn OneCare around.”
Brad was silent.
“We’ve worked together for seven years. I’m asking you to trust me,” Olivia said.
He sighed. “Olivia, if you believe in this, I’ll commit and give it my all. I’m counting on you to make sure David isn’t a seagull though.”
“What’s a seagull? Is that a sports reference?” asked Olivia.
His tension gave way as he let out a small chuckle. “It’s a leader that comes to the job when there’s a problem, makes a lot of quick decisions about stuff they don’t understand, then leaves the crappy mess for someone else to clean up. I don’t want David to be a seagull, and I don’t want to shovel crap alone. Please don’t leave me with a mess. Tell me you are all in with me.”
“I’d never leave you to do a dirty job alone. I’m all in,” Olivia promised.
The next morning when David entered the conference room, the team was already gathered and waiting for him.
Juan spoke decisively, “David, we don’t want to waste any more of your time. We came in a half hour ago and decided we’re all committed to your Takt plan. What’s next?”
“That’s great! I love the enthusiasm. I thought we were going to decide after I got here. What changed?” He pulled files from his briefcase as he began to mentally process the shift.
“Yeah, we were going to decide during this meeting, but we’ve talked about it enough. We all know this is the right thing and it’s time to move forward.”
“Alright.” David was in his element. He looked at the group, excited at the challenge they faced. “Let’s do this! The first step is to establish a plan with flow and then get everyone on the same page


The Switch
Fueled by the enthusiasm that came from uniting the team, David immediately began to devise the steps they would use to decrease the chaos and increase the stability of the project. He lined out key principles of building a Takt plan with the team and stressed the importance of them really comprehending and buying in to concepts like one-piece flow, one process flow, limiting work in process, finishing as you go, and many others. These details would have to be accepted and implemented or progress would continue to be slow and unpredictable.
As the Takt plan began to take shape, David and Brad began to incorporate information from the phase pull plans they had already done into this new process. This collaboration was the basis for their sequences also known as Takt trains. David showed how these sequences of work were repeating in each geographical area. Basic sequences included activities such as
With that input, the three of them created a single Takt phase of work. They replicated the process for each phase of work they had left in the building. Then in Excel, David indicated the key handovers between each phase and called these interdependence ties. The entire project schedule started taking shape. As they worked through the horizontal production work and the vertical shaft and stair production work, they created a solid schedule with all the information from the trade contractors in the new format. David pointed out that there would be some Takt leveling adjustments that would mean some trades would be expected to go a bit slower.
“I’m not gonna lie,” Brad said, “I’m pretty anxious to get started on this just to see how it pans out. There’s a part of me that doesn’t really believe it’ll work, but I’d rather face that fear than take a loss on this project. Even if we can’t fully achieve what we just worked through, I think having the full schedule on one page has me sold on the new format. That, and I already promised Olivia I was all in. This is going to be interesting.”
The team spent a few hours meeting together each day. In their Takt planning meetings they learned these new concepts in depth and finished planning the entire project by the end of the week. When the plan was complete, they could see their path to success. They were excited about the clarity and optimism they felt about the job’s future.
Brad made the call to give Olivia the good news. “Olivia, we’re ready for the next step,’’ he said when she answered the phone. “You two are already done? And it only took you a week? I was beginning to think the two of you became friends and were just milking the opportunity to hang out,” she said pleasantly.
“Nope, it’s pretty much been all business. We’re not completely done, but I definitely see it now. David and I have a session tomorrow to finish up, but we need to schedule a meeting so we can keep making progress. We’ll be ready when you are.”
“Okay, Brad,” she said, sounding very pleased. “David said we needed the whole team for this “fresh eyes” meeting, plus some outside eyes. Who do we need to have there?”
“I honestly think we have it dialed in. I’m not sure we need a second set of eyes, but if I had to choose, I would grab Mark and Brent from the Tower job downtown. They know this kind of work and should be quick studies when it comes to the Takt plan layout.”
“Okay, I’m thinking Monday afternoon for the “fresh eyes.” We could do three hours, revise the plan on Tuesday, and be ready to present to the owner at our OAC on Wednesday. How does that sound?” she asked.
“It sounds like a well-conceived plan. I’ll set it up,” Brad agreed
Creating the Plan
Brad and David had created the Takt plan for OneCare in a week. It took only a week to translate their systems from CPM into a systematic flow. In its simplest form, the first steps were to identify preliminary Takt zones, identify Takt sequences—which could be done from historical information or pull planning—create the Takt train, analyze the throughput time with formulas, and insert buffers. The trick was then to connect it with Last Planner® and get reliable tasks for the weekly work plan in addition to new items. Brad soon realized this was easy with Takt because each Takt wagon had work packages in its composition. Each work package had work steps. The team had the option to use Takt.ing or Excel for this and for the first round they chose Excel, with the promise to upgrade once the system was stable. In Excel, the Takt plan at the macro-level and norm-level was shown in a timescale on the Takt plan. On the micro-level, the work steps were shown on a separate tab categorized by work package. These were the items that would be transferred to the weekly work plan and were easily listed. Brad saw how David could copy the work steps within a work package and paste them into the weekly work plan for collaboration and commitment from the trades. For Scrum, the work steps were moved into the sprint backlog, to be moved to in-progress, and then to complete. Both formats worked.
“You said Takt helps create stable supply chains for LPS® and Scrum at the short-interval level. Can you explain how that works?” Brad wanted to know.
“This is the best part,” said David. “There are a couple things to understand here, Brad. First, the Excel procurement log is aligned with our rhythm per the Takt plan now, correct?”
“Correct, ‘‘ said Brad, “and now they are in the same document too, which I like.”
“Second, the design, even before procurement, is leveled per our Takt plan. Are you following?”
Brad was happy to say he was.
“So now we have design, submittals, fabrication, deliveries, information, equipment, coordination, contracts, and permits all queuing up ahead of the work in a leveled chain of activities. Next, we have to clear the path and see the problems. Here is how we do that. Each Takt wagon has work packages and work steps. The question is, how do we make sure the work in these work packages and Takt wagons is ready without roadblocks? The answer is that we do it with work steps. There are a few different categories of work steps. For instance, if there is a work step with the title pre-construction meeting, we wouldn’t want to see it a day before the Takt wagon, right?” David asked.
“No, but that is where I’m getting confused,” Brad admitted. “I get the procurement thing, but how do we plan the work if we’re not focused on that particular Takt wagon until the week of the actual work?”
“You’re right,” said David. “We don’t start looking at the work just beforehand. It isn’t ever supposed to come as a surprise. We have to look at it before we come to it—weeks ahead in some cases. For the pre-construction meeting for instance, we want that at least three weeks ahead or three Takt times ahead of the work. So we simply put that work step within the Takt wagon three weeks earlier than the meeting is scheduled.”
“Oh, I see.” Brad was relieved. “I thought you could only have work steps in the Takt wagon that pertains to that specific work package.”
“I’m sorry; I should have clarified that earlier,” David said. “This is how we prepare work. The whole system doesn’t work optimally unless you use work steps. Using work steps in this way ensures that we’re always preparing work. Takt.ing does this automatically, and if you use a program like Teamoty, you can simply add it to the sequence and it shows up on the Takt plan. Pretty convenient, right? When we have a preconstruction meeting or submittal due or whatever, we can identify and see issues with it before it becomes a problem. The Lean community always says to make work ready by seeing problems ahead of time, and this is likely the best way to do it. Those roadblocks are marked here in Excel or when using a program like Takt.ing. They’re also shown on your visual maps.”
“Okay, this is cool,” Brad mused. “It’s also going to save me a ton of time with Last Planner®. Instead of having trades spend hours coming up with weekly work plan tasks from scratch every week, they can use the work steps and add in any new items or adjust for variation. We’re going to get through these meetings much more efficiently now.”
Brad and David had made Takt trains for every phase and showed them visually on one page. They then inserted their buffers, interdependence ties, other single sequence work, the Takt point of no return, and all their formatting. Most importantly, they checked that all sequences were packaged from collaborative pull plans. If there was a sequence or two missing they sat down with that trade partner foreman to work through it and make sure durations, crew counts, and material procurement would support it. They were ready for the “fresh eyes” meeting and had a jobsite collaborative plan.
The “Fresh Eyes” Meeting
“Welcome everyone,” David announced when the appointed day arrived. “I love these meetings, and I’m confident this one will be amazing.”
“You think everything is amazing,” Olivia teased.
David laughed. “I know I do, but this time it’s warranted! Hello to our outside eyes Mark and Brent. The team has invited them to lend their experience to the entire OneCare project team gathered here today. We have three hours, and we need to vet this plan to ensure it is ready to present to Jeff and his team at OneCare. We’re going to make this work. Normally, this would have been done before NTP, but we need to do it now for the project nonetheless. Here is how we’re going to do this. We essentially have five parts to this meeting—the overview, poop glasses time, brainstorming, solutions, and finally action items and assignments.
“What the hell did you just say? Did you say poop” Brad asked.
“I sure did,” David said. “What’s the problem?”
“Well, generally, we use a more adult term,” Brad explained.
David laughed. “Well, generally, I would have too, but I’m working on not cussing and it’s the first thing that came to mind.”
“David, you are amazing and this meeting is amazing,” Brad grinned, “but you need to try again.”
“I’ll work on it, but no promises. Disregard the name for a minute. Let me explain what we’re going to do. Brad has prepared an overview of the project so everyone can see the plan together and we can orient the “fresh eyes” folks. Then we’ll dissect it. Now listen closely: We’re not allowed to say nice things, provide compliment sandwiches, sympathy vote people, or be positive. We want to spend some time just finding what could possibly go wrong with this before it actually happens. We need to put on our…ummm… risk glasses. Is that better, Brad?”
“It’ll work,” he answered.
David continued, “Once we have all possible problems on the table, and we’ve found all the reasons why the plan won’t work, we go into brainstorming mode to link problems to possible solutions. Remember, we’re not deciding yet; we’re only putting down all the ideas. And the only stupid idea is the one no one brings up.
“After that, we’ll decide what we should adjust on the Takt plan, the logistics drawing, the Takt zone and sequence drawings, and the basis of schedule. Each action item will have an assignment and this will be tracked weekly. By the time we are finished here today, we’ll have the Takt plan, the logistics drawings, Takt zone maps, the BOS, the action list, and the proposed language for our zero-dollar change order ready to present to Jeff. Does everyone understand the vision for this meeting?”
“This ought to be a blast and there isn’t even any rafting involved. Let’s get started,” Olivia said with a smile.
“Okay, there’s just one more thing I’d like everyone to keep in mind as we move forward. We have to create a plan that will protect our people, this team, our families, and the owner. We need it all out on the table in the room where it happens. And please, let’s speak up here and now and agree there’s no gossiping outside the project. Can everyone commit to that?” David asked. After various affirmative gestures and verbal acquiescence from many different voices, they began.
Brad presented his overview of the plan for the project. As he explained the various steps, he found himself gifted with even more understanding of how the systems worked, and it was further solidified in his mind. The team patiently spent time on each section and accomplished each objective. They had to adjust the Takt train and break it into two phases to accommodate flooring and the medical equipment installation. They realized that their most difficult area would be completed just ahead of substantial completion and made plans to support the trades in that area. By the end of the meeting, they had a list of line items.
The meeting was full of great questions.
And so many more…
Each item was assigned and had a due date affixed. The team would have all the documents updated and ready to show to Jeff on Wednesday. The remarkable outcome of this meeting and process was that they all had input and knew the plan together. Everyone was able to express thoughts and concerns. There was a sense of comeraderie and everyone felt they’d been bought in.
Meanwhile, Paul and Juan informed the trades of the upcoming changes in preparation for a zero-dollar change order that would contract them to the new plan so that everyone was aware and expecting it before Wednesday. The team felt resolute in their new path.
The OAC (Owner, Architect, Contractor) Meeting It wasn’t long before it was time for the OAC meeting.
“Welcome everyone,” Olivia said as she opened the meeting. “Today most of what we are going to discuss is our response to some of the issues we’ve been having. We have a plan and we’d like to communicate it in this meeting. We want everyone to get on the same page so we can move forward together.”
Jeff lifted his hand to respond, “Thank you Olivia. I appreciate your prompt response to this. It’s only been two and a half weeks since we spoke and I’m glad to hear you’ve found a solution.”
“I am too,” she said. “Brad will run us through the plan on the screen and we can discuss it as we go, but I want to preface it by saying that our issue has been a lack of flow.”
“What do you mean by flow?” Jeff asked.
“What I mean is that our schedule has not been enabling flow on the project and we, unfortunately, allowed it to get out of our control.” She hoped her honesty would invite some critique. She was certainly prepared for it.
“You’re using CPM per the contract, correct?” Jeff asked.
“We have been, but we needed to be using a Takt plan. I mean T-A-K-T,” she added before anyone could ask. “It’s a German word for rhythm or batton. It means flow schedule. Our new plan enables us to keep a flow.”
“Okay, so is that what I am looking at up here?” Jeff asked, as he pointed to the colorful chart on the screen. When Olivia agreed that it was, Jeff continued. “I remember you showing me this before. I’m glad we are going through it, but how does this tie to safety incidents, and how are you going to improve the inspection walks with our insurance carrier? I was expecting to cover this topic today. For me, safety is the top priority.”
Olivia was unfazed by his bluntness and answered in the same manner. “We’ll cover all these things today, Jeff. Would you mind if we get through the first 10 minutes here to present our findings and then ask questions?”
“Certainly. As long as we are going to address the safety portion of this meeting.”
Olivia confirmed that safety was on the agenda and turned the meeting over to Brad. He took them through the presentation of where they had been, what they had developed, and where they were going. He showed them the flow analysis of the previous CPM schedule and how it was creating variation. He expertly explained the current plan and how it aligned with design, procurement, and commissioning. When he was done, he had reviewed all the schedule deliverables, and the team could see the hard work put into this plan. He finished by addressing the key steps in the Integrated Production Control System, which David had worked with him to refine. Olivia was pleased with his high level of enthusiasm. She had hoped for it, but could not have predicted it just a few short weeks ago. Brad covered just about everything.
He specifically spent more time on
Olivia knew Brad wanted to ensure everyone in this room knew how this system would support and maintain better safety standards and practices. The positive reactions to these concepts during the meeting were evident.
When Brad finished, Olivia stood up and made her next statement with full confidence: “Our foremen have been distracted up until now. They have been spending most of their time making weekly work plans from scratch, tracking down misaligned procurement, and orienting an influx of different people week-in and week-out. That is because our schedule was not visible, stable, and working in a flow. When we implement Takt, our foremen will be able to spend their time with their people in the field, with the right materials, the right information, a steady and stable crew size, and in a predictable sequence. They will be able to control the site and the safety of their workers because they have the environment and capacity to do so. And we, as a project team, now have the capacity to enforce it onsite. We will have flow. And when we can get flow we can get safety. That is our plan.”
“I wasn’t anticipating a response like this,” Jeff admitted. “I can see your point and your plan, but I’m going to be vulnerable and say that I don’t fully understand it yet. But you definitely have our support. What is the timeline to implement it?”
Brad spoke up, “If we’re aligned here today, we’ll issue zero-dollar change orders tomorrow, and by Monday, everyone will be heading in the same direction. You’ll see results for safety immediately on the walks, and systems should be aligned and stable in three weeks.”
Jeff nodded, impressed. “Okay, we’ll meet three weeks from now to assess—as long as our insurance walks show excellent for the next three weeks,” Jeff said. “If not, I’ll be back sooner to discuss this.”
“Thank you Jeff and thank you team for your time and efforts here today,” Olivia said, and she closed the meeting.
With Olivia reassuring OneCare that the new system would resolve the safety problems and other concerns, they were ready to begin. Within two weeks, everyone on the project was following the Takt plan and implementing Takt control. Procurement, crew flow, design, and all other scheduling was set to follow the Takt plan. Brad followed through with his commitments, Juan continued to support as needed, and Paul kept the team on track and accountable to the team’s decision. Despite being stretched thin by other projects, Olivia was able to stay connected as Brad had requested because the project was self-sustaining and successful, and required so little of her time.
There were complaints from various trades during the transition to Takt and the new system. They were disgruntled at having failures pointed out and often took it personally. But very quickly they started to have wins. Area by area they began to track more closely to schedule and developed a rhythm. The fab shop for the mechanical trade was able to keep up with the schedule, and areas stabilized with cleanliness, organization, and safety. This was largely due to implementing morning huddles with the workers and enforcing zero tolerance policies after improving worker conditions. Progress was visible to the team now that they had trade flow.
Only the tower section on levels 1 and 2 were still having difficulty. One of the assistant supers running those floors kept trying to push the schedule instead of holding the Takt start dates, and it was causing friction with the trade foremen. After about three weeks of observing and coaching him, they chose to give that area to the super in charge of the podium, and they transferred the assistant super who chose not to align with the project standards to a different project. Within another two weeks the entire site was in sync and the team was balanced.
Takt is a holding system, not a push system. When people try to keep pushing they lose the genius of the system. Holding means flow. When you flow, you go fast. Much like the Navy Seal saying, “Slow is smooth, and smooth if fast,” with Lean, “Holding is smooth, and smooth is fast.” When Jeff visited the site six weeks after that OAC meeting where they began to implement their Takt plan for OneCare, he saw an entirely new jobsite.
Jeff saw that the team was balanced, happy, and driving to the next milestones. OneCare invited Brad and Olivia to present the new system to their regional construction manager group in their monthly meeting. He genuinely felt that Olivia, Brad, and Evergreen had turned the project around.
This story ends with the team maintaining success throughout the rest of the project. They finished a week early, on budget at 98% of their fee target, and with a remarkable environment of health and stability. Projects are successful when Takt is implemented in this way with a high performing team.
In Spite of...
Interestingly enough, and although the project was on track to finish, two of the major trades submitted potential change orders for the additional time their people spent in afternoon and morning huddles. Olivia was somewhat annoyed this was taking place, but she, as always, tactfully approached it with logic and listening. After a few discussions the trade PMs decided the COs could be shelved for the time being. It did not come up again as the project finished one week ahead of schedule and the trades were able to make full fee.
There was one particular trade PM that was obstinate from the beginning. Chris informed Brad that his team knew CPM and that they were hired because they were schedule experts. In project leadership meetings, Chris and his crew would make incorrect statements about when they were to start in particular areas. In one meeting, after observing their continual error, Juan asked if they could identify the start date for level 2, area B. After fumbling through the CPM schedule, Chris answered with the wrong date. Embarrassed but determined, he asked to see the Takt plan. He was finally ready for a change. These types of situations are common during the transition to Takt. They must be handled appropriately and patiently until all trades can see the system mainly benefits them.
By week eight, all trades were bought into the system. Evergreen Construction had a different project of comparable size that began to experience similar problems. Let’s compare the results: The OneCare project finished a week early, at full fee, with zero defects. The other project finished 4.5 months behind schedule, at a net fee loss of 2.3 million dollars, and with an unhappy customer. Half of that project’s leadership team left the company afterward because they were frustrated and burned out. The systems were compared and Evergreen began an initiative to scale up and implement Takt throughout the company. It was clear to the Evergreen leadership team that Takt was their next massive scaling effort. They invited Olivia onto the leadership team and tasked her with scaling the system throughout the region. She happily accepted.
Starting with Takt
Olivia rallied with Juan to make sure all new projects began with Takt as a first step. Although the OneCare project finished well, the transition from CPM to Takt was more difficult mid-stream. She asked that Juan and his department start the following practices to set up each project right:
Her request of Juan and the schedule department was outlined in an email and in person by Olivia as follows:

Future Projects:

Juan, as we discussed, please begin working with your department to implement the following in preconstruction for every project moving forward:
Olivia placed her tray on the table and sat down across from Juan.
“Well, here we are again,” Juan said to Olivia. “Seems like we’ve come full circle.”
“Yes, but this time we have enough time to eat. There are no emergencies.”
“Are you excited about the promotion?” he asked, unwrapping his burger.
“Not directly about the promotion, but the added authority to scale up excellence with our new systems. I’ve seen what Takt has done for my family and our teams and I want that for all of our projects. It’s time for a change in the right direction.”
“You’re right! It’s exciting, but it’s also a little bit daunting as well. Do you think we are moving too fast on this?”
“Not really,” she said. She took a bit of her sandwich and wiped her mouth with her napkin before speaking again. “These projects move so fast, and if we don’t start them the right way, we’ll be in for a total mess with all the additional contracts we’ve picked up lately. It has to be done, but not right this minute Juan. We’ll be smooth and steady about it.”
“Great, I’ll finish my lunch then. Hey, did you ever close out with David after OneCare? Is he sad to be done?”
“Oh he’s not done,” she said, smiling. “He’s working with us on the leadership team, improving organizational health and supporting me in this Takt journey. We’re just getting started with everything Elevate can do to help us. In fact, I told him I would ask you if he could work with you on this rollout. He wanted to make sure it was something you wanted before he agreed.”
“Absolutely, I love that guy,” Juan said. “He knows construction and he’s approachable. I’m all in. Besides, I think we’re just beginning here; the things I was learning from David after OneCare amaze me. The entire system seems to be a mathematical production system. He started showing me buffer management, Takt risk analysis, and how to really use Takt Control with work steps. We’re really on to something here. Some of the early pilot projects are already seeing a 20% increase in time savings once they started using the formula he showed us. I’d never have thought it was possible.”
“I know. I’m excited to see where this all goes.” She was truly optimistic about the future of Evergreen, and her ability to facilitate changes in construction.
Juan sipped his drink. “Could you have imagined that OneCare would be successful after the mess we were in? And that it would have this impact on our careers?”
Olivia thought about it for a minute, then answered: “I’m not sure I could have imagined the impact it’s had on our careers, but I relentlessly envision success and solutions. In my experience, asking for help has always been beneficial, so the fact that we won at OneCare was not a surprise.”
Juan agreed and turned the conversation to his upcoming weekend plans. With no reason to rush this time, they finished their lunch.
Here is where we leave them behind and you become the main character of the book. The rest of our book describes the steps David taught the team for their Takt journey, and we’d like to welcome you to take the same journey. What will you do to implement Takt on your project? Whatever your next move is, we want you to know we’re cheering you on as you begin your fight against waste and variation. Every week, month, and year of learning Takt will become more and more exciting. Once you and your company begin implementing Takt planning and Takt control, you will begin to see huge gains in production which will lead to increased profits and shorter overall project durations—not to mention the stability and flow that will protect families and people on our job sites. Stay with it. On we go!
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