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Last Planner is a handy tool for Lean interior design

“Most people make the mistake of thinking design is what it looks like. People think it’s this veneer – that the designers are handed this box and told, ‘Make it look good!’ That’s not what we think design is. It’s not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.” – Steve Jobs

As a result of this design misconception so brilliantly put by Jobs, interior designers working on commercial projects often come in last to the project team and timetable.

Interior designers’ clients can range from the architect or contractor to the building owner. In many cases we are not in contact with the whole team or the whole design process, which can limit our ability to create the most efficient and imaginative finished spaces.

As designers, we often can’t change how or when we are brought on to a team. However, we can utilize Lean principles and ideals in an effort to provide project management and professional interior design services that are both cost-effective and efficient.

LEAN design and construction are the result of an evolution based on the philosophies and practices of the manufacturing process. “The Toyota Way,” by Jeffrey Liker, lays out these processes as a way to streamline performance and drive out waste on any project. Continuously focusing on how a process can be improved, what can be learned, what can be corrected, and what can be edited or deleted is a big part of this philosophy.

As a certified professional interior designer, I am always looking to add more value to projects. Working within Lean principles has been both a life- and career-changing experience. The aim is to help clients contribute to their bottom line by creating beautiful and attractive interiors that help them to gain an edge over the competition. Interiors that are well appointed and planned can act to increase productivity, profitability and pride of ownership.

When you start to look to the Lean movement in design and construction, you begin to see ways to employ these practices on every project to help overcome project challenges, whether or not the rest of the team is on board. There are many tools under the Lean “umbrella” you can employ. My favorite and most effective tool has been “Pull Planning,” or “The Last Planner System.”

“The Last Planner (sometimes referred to as the Last Planner System) is a production planning system designed to produce predictable work flow and rapid learning in programming, design, construction and commissioning of projects. Last Planner was developed by Glenn Ballard and Greg Howell,” according to the Lean Construction Institute.

You can engage a few basic principles from this system. Set a milestone (a date or large task needed to be complete by a certain day), then “pull” back from that day to lay out the steps you will take to accomplish or reach this milestone.

Take a realistic look at how long you will need to perform each task and what you might need from the project team in order to accomplish this goal. Involve the project management team in your planning, and help create a list of things you will need from the team in order to accomplish these steps. Couple this process with a deadline and set it on your calendar. Follow up with weekly work plan sessions and measure your results.

Last Planner can keep you on track and can help to deliver a better, more quickly finished product for your clients.

Crystal Arreola is the founder of a local interior design firm, Studio Interiors LLC. She is the current president of the ASID Intermountain Chapter; she is also working to establish a local Lean Community of Practice. If you are interested in learning more about Lean or want to be a part of the Lean Community of Practice, contact her at crystal@studiointeriors.org or call (208) 284-5590

About Crystal Arreola

One comment

  1. Beautiful article! I think as a interior designer, the last planner is the most important to them. Because it can make the design better and the overall design will appear more beautiful.