Building Better with Pull Planning


The Pull Planning process is a way for contractors and owners to collaborate, improve a project’s schedule, and build teamwork.

On nearly all OCMI construction projects, our schedulers, project managers, and others routinely engage in Pull Planning sessions to improve a project’s schedule, avoid rework, and foresee potential issues or constraints early on. Pull Planning is a collective process that ultimately delivers a better project and cultivates a stronger team environment.

Why use Pull Planning?

  • Brainstorming with the entire project team to look ahead (typically 4-6 weeks ahead of schedule) helps everyone understand the project in a more holistic manner
  • Identifying potential areas where trades overlap and must coordinate to reduce the risk of productivity claims
  • Finding areas where multiple crews would be required to meet scheduling goals
  • Analyzing activity durations and sequences to ensure that the team hits project milestones
  • Promoting stronger communication among all team players, particularly the subcontractors, fosters teamwork, giving subcontractors ownership and accountability for their scope
  • Helping all project players understand each other’s scope ensures that work is reduced and overlapping activities eliminated

The Pull Planning Process

Developing a Pull Planning process varies by project and team, and generally includes participants from the general contractor and subcontractor trades, in addition to other technical subject matter experts, like OCMI’s schedulers. For a $100-million-plus confidential data center project, the Pull Planning process that OCMI adheres to entails these activities:

Preparing for the Pull Planning Session

  1. OCMI provides the project team members with the baseline schedule with durations and milestones one (1) month before the construction start date.
  2. Before attending the Pull Planning session, every subcontractor understands their scope of work and comes up with a feasible duration for performing respective activities.
  3. OCMI coordinates a “kick-off” session.
  4. Participants use “sticky notes” with different colors for each subcontractor; each note is filled with the name of the subcontractor, activity scope, and activity duration.
  5. Using the notes, the team fills up the wall board with “Week Starting” to “Week Ending” in a matrix, along with an “area” of the project, such as a floor number, cooling tower, etc.
  6. Ongoing activities are positioned like a square, and “start” and “end” activities are positioned like a rhombus, so that the team can easily discern between the two types.
  7. Subcontractors perform this activity for four (4) consecutive weeks.

Conducting the Pull Planning Session

  1. The contractor’s superintendent then leads the Pull Planning session, brainstorming with the project team on each scope of work, scope durations, and predecessor and successor scopes, to make sure that all subcontractors have the material and man power, as needed, as well as discuss any possible risk to the project’s schedule.
  2. This process is repeated on a weekly basis, so that the entire team reviews the progress of the present week and prepares for upcoming work using the four-week look ahead schedule, created by OCMI.
  3. After reviewing the present week’s progress, that week’s wall board is cleared and moved to the end, which is then filled with the fifth week’s look ahead activities; the entire time line of boards is then progressed accordingly with second becoming the first, and so on.
  4. OCMI’s schedulers maintain a record of the project’s tasks by continuously updating our CPM schedule in Primavera P6. We utilize this schedule to reference and double check work scope against the latest Pull Planning session activities.

Lessons Learned & Best Practices

While the first few weeks of a Pull Planning session are comprehensive and time consuming, the process becomes more routine and focused over time, as the team becomes more integrated and familiar with the project’s scope and activity durations.
The Pull Planning sessions afford every project stakeholder the opportunity to receive clarifications, ask questions, and identify potential risks to the project – all aimed at ensuring a safe job site and a project completed on time or, even better, ahead of schedule.

All photos taken from OCMI Pull Planning sessions.