Case Study: Lessons Learned – Mid Project Review

Project Overview

Workface Planning – Mid-Project Report
Fort McMurray
Approximately $2 Billion

Project Summary:

Both Client and the Contractor have experience with WFP

The Project-B has seen the most extensive application of the Workface Planning model in the industry so far. This is due to two major components:

  • Owner established the expectation for Workface Planning in their RFPs
  • Construction Contractor brought with them experience and processes.

The application of detailed planning has had a significant positive impact on the project and is responsible for the identification and removal of many major obstacles. The relative calm that the project is now experiencing can be contributed to the core planning team who have successfully normalized the process of identifying barriers before they reach the field.

Positive outcomes:

  • Consensus amongst field supervisors is that the FIWPs have had a positive impact on productivity.
  • 45% of all RFI’s (4000) were submitted by Workface Planners prior to execution.
  • QC field validated each FIWP upon completion and this has contributed to short punchlists.
  • Paperwork for Foremen has been minimized
  • Jurisdictional conflicts are almost nonexistent.
  • The Workface planning scaffold management system has had a positive impact on the amount of delays attributed to the absence of scaffold.

As good as the project has been there are still opportunities for improvement: the following lessons learned are a summary of interviews with key project personnel.

Lessons learned:

  • Owner expectations must be well defined and supported with detailed procedures that set specific expectations.
  • The project management team must manage to the procedures and take timely action to correct deviations.
  • Owner expectations for the application of Workface Planning must extend to:
    • Owners Project Management: Senior PM’s did not understand or take ownership for Workface Planning.
    • Design: Constructability was not conducted and the path of construction was changed by Construction Contractor after they mobilized. This essentially voided the schedule.
    • Engineering: EWPs and CWPs were constructed without consideration for Workface Planning or FIWPs. This made the coordination of FIWP development very difficult.
    • Engineering: 3D models were developed without consistency, so that the application of ConstructSim by Construction Contractor was very difficult and not fully pursued.
    • Procurement: The procurement team had no knowledge of Workface Planning or their need for electronic information.
    • Fabrication: The fabricators were not obligated to deliver the electronic information that the Workface Planners needed. (steel piece mark numbers) So the information had to be extracted manually from cut sheets that arrived much later.
    • Material Management: Lack of coordination between the needs of the material yard and Procurement left the database half populated with information. Eventually, the entire Material Management database was re-created on Excel. This created a huge risk for information loss.
    • Project Controls: Ambiguity around which schedule and set of unit rates to use created a situation where there were several versions of the truth. This prevented the Planners from assigning Planned Value to the FIWPs. (No expectation for performance).
    • Operations need to develop a definition and sequence of system turnover prior to construction so that FIWPs can be used to communicate QC requirements to the field.
  • Contractor execution: The lack of a formalized procedure allowed the process to develop without these fundamentals in place.
    • Construction must drive Workface Planning, on this project, it was the other way around and it resulted in these conditions:
      • The path of construction suggested by Engineering was not practical and was ignored by the Field.
      • Superintendents were not involved in the development of FIWPs so they ignored the sequence or grouping of activities.
      • For the first half of the project, FIWPs were handed out to the field but not returned so the supervisors dissected the packs in the field and cherry-picked the activities
      • Communication between the field supervisors and the Workface Planners was one way: FIWP -> Field Supervisors
      • The lack of a feedback cycle prevented the FIWPs from becoming more effective.
    • The FIWPs had no planned value so there was no link between the estimate and performance expectations.
    • ConstructSim was not functionalized (due to effort, not ability)
    • FIWPs did not appear in the schedule until halfway through the project.
    • Material confirmation was not a constraint on the FIWPs
    • Construction equipment allocation and confirmation was not a constraint.
    • For the first half of the project, progress was not associated with FIWP completions
    • Too many signatures, (14) created unnecessary delays.
      • Critical signatures are
        • Superintendent
        • Safety
        • Quality


The project has established a new baseline for planning and has mapped the path for coordination between project silos. It has also clarified the Owner’s responsibility and reinforced some fundamentals that are known best practices: Owner involvement, the need for constructability, clear concise procedures, auditing against procedures, solid level 3 schedules and Workface Planning.

Path forward:

In order to progress these “Lessons Recorded” to become “Lessons Learned” the Owner needs to take these actions:

  1. The Owner must incorporate these lessons recorded into their existing procedures.
  2. The Owner must set a clear expectation through detailed procedures for all stakeholders.
  3. All Stakeholders must respond with a comprehensive set of procedures that satisfy the owner expectations.
  4. The Owner must audit the project against their own procedures and the stakeholder procedures every 6 months.
  5. Stakeholders must take action to correct the deviations.