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Setbacks on the job site happen all the time. Hours of wasted material handling, inefficient installation methods, and missed opportunities to save time while doing the work. These set-backs are measured in hours – not minutes – and can quickly add up causing frustration and resulting in lower employee morale on even the best managed job site.
How do we avoid this frustration? The answer is simple. Apply the P4 Planning System®.
The P4 Planning System® doesn’t require an extensive understanding of Lean history, concepts, philosophy or the sometimes-foreign language that accompanies it. This field proven technique is guaranteed to knock down barriers and better control project outcomes. Want to learn more about how you can use P4 on your job site?


P4 is a continuous improvement standard first implemented at Parsons Electric based in Minneapolis, MN. Developed by Perry Thompson, Lean Executive Director at Parsons Electric, based on a recurring need to develop more efficient, reliable project outcomes. Needless to say, a large gap existed from where Parsons first started to where they needed to be.

To close this gap Parsons started using a simple four-stage planning system that helped guide their project teams towards developing a reliable weekly plan. This was done whether the general contractor was using the Last Planner® system or not. They called the process – getting Lean ready!

As Parsons Electric became Lean ready, they realized the benefits of the P4 System were far greater than they expected. Parsons believes in creating multi-win scenarios across the construction industry, from owners, and general contractors to the multiple trade subcontractors that work on a project. That’s why they have made it their mission to share their version of Lean so that all trades on a project can benefit from each other.

Learn it. Do It. Repeat It.

The P4 System doesn’t require an extensive understanding of Lean history, concepts, or philosophy. It is designed to enable field leaders to very quickly implement this approach on job sites a matter of hours after first learning about it. Don’t worry, it doesn’t have to be perfect the first time you try it. It’s a continuous improvement system and will get better each time you use it.

P4 knocks down barriers, engaging the team to think and talk about their work while they study and commit to a much better production plan. Additionally, P4 creates a standard, guaranteeing repeatable success when used on projects.

P4 System is based on 4 primary activities that set field leaders and their team up for success on any project. As the name suggests, each of these activities starts with the letter “P” – ProcessPacePrepare, and Perform.  

  1. Process – Prior to beginning any work, map the overall process from design to final inspection. Start at the end – what does a successful project look like? From there, identify the milestones, or deliverables, that are needed to achieve this end goal. Your next step is to map out the process that needs to happen from one milestone to the next. This is a simple process map and should call out whatever is necessary to make sure nothing is missed.

    Once you have a map that represents the high level view of what needs to happen to complete this work, assign a duration to each process. Design 3 weeks, design review 2 days, Foreman design review 1 day, Prefab 2 weeks, foreman prefab review 1 day, material, tools, equipment deliveries 1 day, Installation 5 days, Final inspection 1 day… Don’t forget to assign milestone dates based on these durations.

 Use post-it’s (trust us it’s easier to move things) to make changes and add to the process as you develop this map. Each step and milestone receive its own post it.

  1. Pace – Use a floorplan/map of the space you’re working in to make your process a visual plan. Use colored wall lines and grid lines to break the work up into weekly chunks by floor, zones, phases, or areas. Use color to clearly show what each week’s work zones are at a glance. Write in big bold letters Wk1, Wk2, on each floor, zone or area you’ve identified on your map. Enter a number right next to these weekly titles, this number is the crew size including the foreman. Wk1-3, Wk2-4…this means, week one with a crew of three, week two with a crew of four.
  2. Prepare– Develop a detailed process map of just the field installation process. This step is adding more details to each of the processes you identified in Step 1: Process.

Why do this? There are many ways to complete work, or as they say, “skin the cat”. Different foremen have different experiences and often different methods to approach and perform the installation process. This is a great opportunity to get different perspectives from the project team and think about trying new things that would benefit the installation team. Some topics we’ve seen discussed:

  • What are the best means and methods to getting work done?
  • Did we consider transportation in time of delivery?
  • How much should be delivered and when?
  • Where should materials be staged? Is there a location to stage close to the installation site?
  • Once ideas are gathered, align and agree with the trade partner’s team on how work will be done.


  1. Perform– What does 100% Satisfaction look like on this project? List everything that has to happen to make this phase of work successful. List any constraints internal to your own organization (such as drawing errors, prefab failures…) and any external constraints from outside your organization (such as vendors, other trades, RFI’s, owners, GC…) List things that have gone wrong in the past…talk about they can be prevented this time around. Determine what “done done” means to everyone for this particular phase of the work.

As with any system there must be a feedback loop. After work is completed, check it against the planning done during Pplanning. Note any adjustments that were made during the process and include lessons learned. Share your results with others and help us bring awareness to Lean Construction for Field Leaders.

Success on a project is when everyone from the owner and general contractor down to all the trades working in tandem. Stop leaving success up to being at the mercy of other trades and take control by embracing Lean principles. Hear from Field Leaders currently using P4 and how it has forever changed how they approach their work.

“P4 is a system that can be adapted for any project and any trade…providing a systematic approach to project planning that guarantees improved efficiencies & reliable results.”

Perry Thompson, Lean Executive Director, Parsons Electric

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