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What is a lookahead?

If you work in projects, then you have no-doubt heard of, or even seen, a “lookahead”. The Project Planner brings it to meetings, includes it in the update report he sends out and it receives much talk in the update meetings. Have you ever wondered what these lookaheads really are and what their purpose is?

If you’re laughing at the idea that someone in projects does not know what a lookahead is, then don’t. There are many, and they don’t have the boldness to ask. We did not expect this question to come from a senior project team member after weeks of update meetings and reports. But we were glad he eventually asked, so he could make use of this tool! So, this is for the Project Managers, Construction Managers and other project team members who don’t know, but don’t have the nerve to ask.

“What is a lookahead?”

Lookaheads, also called short-term schedules, are reports, given by Project Planners to their project teams, detailing the activities that are scheduled for the time period of the lookahead.

For example, if I receive a two week lookahead, it will contain all the activities that: are to start within the two weeks, are active/busy in the two weeks, are to complete in the two weeks. This information is drawn from the project schedule, where all the works are planned. So, in a nutshell, the lookahead contains all the activities that are planned in the schedule for the specified two weeks.

Project Planners can also give a one week lookahead, a one month lookahead, a three month lookahead, or any time period you require, really.

“What is the purpose of the lookahead?”

It helps project teams determine priorities for the time period and plan their works in order to remain on target.

Of course your whole schedule helps you determine what needs to be done when in order to deliver the entire scope on time and in budget. However, a project schedule can, and often does, contain thousands, sometimes ten thousands of activities. If you as a Project Manager, Construction Manager or even Supervisor, had to go through all these activities to find your bearings, you would just not use it at all.

That is why lookaheads are used to pinpoint only the activities that need handling and tracking in the specified time period, for better foresight and ultimately better control.

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