In the last supervision column, the significance of planning as a supervisory function was discussed. Planning was defined and its importance was underscored. The column urged all supervisors to be careful not to fall into the trap of thinking, “I am too busy, and I just do not have time for ‘that planning stuff.’”

It is a proven fact that the better the supervisor plans, the more effective his or her level of supervision becomes. Consequently, this truth holds for all supervisory work you will ever do.

Webster’s Dictionary defines a plan as “a scheme or method of acting, doing, proceeding, making, etc., developed in advance.” One must plan for the long term as well as the short term.

All planning involves looking into the future and putting things in place so that events will turn out the intended way. Granted, the supervisor must find time to look into the future, while managing in real time, amid the chaos that often swirls around him or her. But planning is an investment of time and effort that will pay huge dividends.

It also should be recognized that the ability to plan is not genetic or a gift that some people have and others do not. Planning is a skill that needs to be developed, cultured, practiced and mastered. Once mastered, the ability to plan will prove to be one of the most important skills in the supervisor’s repertoire.

It begins by recognizing the need for and the value of planning, then devoting the necessary energy and repetitious practice to get it done. Like other skills you have mastered, it becomes more natural and is more easily accomplished with time and practice. Soon, the supervisor will wonder how he or she ever got along without consciously planning.

Elements that a supervisor should think about while making a comprehensive plan should include:

  • Consider the long and short term.
  • Update former plans.
  • Ensure plans are flexible or changable.
  • Consider the effectiveness of written plans and checklists.

In a normal supervisory environment, elements of long-term plans might include being familiar with the overall project schedule (usually a network schedule) and using upcoming activities on that schedule for planning.

For example, the supervisor may need to be mindful of purchasing (or following up on the purchase) of long-lead-time items and to be sure they are available and ready when needed. Many supervisors have found an item was still in fabrication or had yet to be shipped when they needed it that day. This is a result of poor long-term planning or no planning at all.

In this regard, if supervisors are not familiar with network schedules and their use to portray and plan everything to be done, they should know that understanding the fundamentals of network scheduling is not difficult to master. There are a variety of training programs supervisors could attend, which will teach them the fundamentals of these powerful planning tools called network schedules.

Short-term planning involves thinking about the more immediate future. The line between long term and short term isn’t definite. Some use weeks, and others use days. The key is the supervisor should be thinking far enough into the future, so there can be adequate planning for the immediate work activities.

We have enjoyed tremendous success by using a “rolling three-day look ahead,” and we recommend it for your consideration and use. It is important to note, however, this three-day look ahead must also be coupled with long-term planning.

Your three-day look-ahead schedules should be written. They should map out—crewmember by crewmember and activity by activity—the planned work for three days. These plans also should include a listing of the materials, supplies, tools and equipment needed for each activity. If any of these resources are not already on hand, this planning and listmaking will serve as the signal to get them before you need them.

At the conclusion of each day’s work, you should update the plan for the next few days based on events and progress. Additionally, add a third day to the plan. This rolling process should continue every day.

We promise if you incorporate planning into your skills, you will quickly see the rewards. And the rewards will come in many forms. Soon you will wonder how you ever functioned without this powerfully effective tool called planning. EC

ROUNDS is the AGC endowed chair and professor of civil engineering at the University of New Mexico. E-mail him at jlrounds@unm.edu. SEGNER is a professor of construction science at Texas A&M University. Contact him at rsegner@archmail.tamu.edu.