Have you ever found P6 Lookaheads challenging to understand? You’re not alone.

Picture this: You’re sitting there, coffee in hand, wondering if you’re doing things correctly. It’s a common feeling. Every planner has moments of uncertainty.

But what if there was a clear guide to help you? A step-by-step approach to boost your confidence. That’s exactly what this guide offers. I will provide clarity, help you understand, and set you on the right track.

Are you ready to replace your uncertainties with solid knowledge? Let’s get started!

1. Define Lookahead Period Date Range

Diving into a project without knowing recent accomplishments or foreseeing upcoming tasks? That’s like navigating a ship without a compass. The lookahead period in scheduling is this compass, guiding project teams to navigate the treacherous waters of project uncertainties.

For starters, we have “Activity before the data date.” It’s essential to rewind a bit, understanding completed or in-progress tasks. Think of it as replaying a movie scene to catch important plot points. For many, this rewind goes back about 2 to 3 weeks.

On the other hand, “Activity after the data date” is about peering into the future. It’s akin to getting a trailer of the movie’s next big scene, giving a sneak peek into what’s coming. This typically covers the next three or four periods.

Setting this up in Primavera P6? It’s straightforward:

    • Open up Primavera P6.
    • Choose your project.
    • Slide into the “Activities” tab.
    • Harness the “Date” filter to stamp your project’s range. See more on this – Setting Up Activity Filters

And here’s something that many might find surprising: A look-ahead schedule doesn’t just show what’s up next. As per AACE’s guidelines, RP 37R-06, it starts with the past performance (or the as-built performance) and then spans across the three upcoming periods. So, while the common timeframes linger between two to three weeks or even up to 90 days, intricate schedules, like those for refinery turnarounds, are usually more granular, focusing on a tighter timeframe.

2. Setting Up Activity Filters

Think of P6 filters like kitchen strainers – they let through only what you want.

Want to view tasks for the next 3 weeks, including what was done the week before? Here’s how:

    • Open up your project.
    • Tap on the “Activities” tab.
    • Head to Filters.
    • Create a New Filter and label it “Three Week Lookahead“.
    • Set the parameters like:

Any of the following:

    • Where Start Date is within a range of DD-1W, DD+3W
    • Or Finish Date is within a range of DD-1W, DD+3W

Here’s a quick tip: “D” stands for Day, “DD” represents Data Date, and “W” means Week. So, for a 5-day look-ahead, you’d type DD+5D. For a 6-week view? Use DD+6W. Simple, right?

3 Week Look-ahead Critical Task?

Let’s say your stakeholder wants to see only Critical Activities within 3 Weeks. How?

1) Select the pre-defined filter “Critical” in the default filter list.

2) Select “3 Week Lookahead” filter you just created.

 

 3) Leave out summary activities such as level of effort and WBS summary because they don’t offer any meaningful information to your team working on the actual tasks. Instead, configure the parameters as follows:

All of the following:

      • Where Activity Type is not equal to WBS Summary
      • And Activity Type is not equal to Level of Effort

 Exploring Filter Options

Not getting the results you hoped for? Here’s a handy guide to filter options A through D for a 3-week lookahead schedule. Test them out and see which one works best. And remember, you can always apply these methods for different lookahead durations.

Option A – Date-Specific Duration Filter: For activities starting two weeks prior to a data date (let’s use 20 May 2011 as an example) and finishing three weeks after. So, you’d capture activities starting on or after 9 May 2011 and finishing on or before 10 June 2011.

 

Option B – Upcoming Activities Filter: This one shows activities starting within the next three weeks from the data date. It includes tasks in progress and those about to kick off within three weeks. Use “Early Start is less than DD+3W“, but exclude any completed tasks with “Activity Status is not equal to Completed”.

The parameter is “Early Start is less than DD+3W“, and “Activity Status is not equal to Completed”.

 

 

Option C – Broad Date Range Filter (Start is within range of Date1 and Date2): Here, you simply filter for activities starting between 9 May 2011 and 10 June 2011. It’ll probably show you more activities than Options A or B.

Parameter: Start is within range of 9 May 11 and 10 Jun 11

 

Option D – Flexible 3-Week View: Want to see all tasks within a 3-week window, regardless of when they began? Say you have tasks that started more than two weeks ago but finish beyond the 3-week lookahead. This filter ensures they’re still included. Use “Remaining Early Finish is ≥ DD-2W” and “Remaining Early Start is ≤ DD+3W“.

 

Quick Thought: If you’re curious about my top picks? I lean towards Options B and D. Why? They’re flexible, not tied to specific dates. Option B will give you a shorter list, while D offers a broader view. Try them out, mix and match, and choose what aligns best with your team’s objectives.

 

3. Ensure Consistent Activity Duration

If you want to create a lookahead schedule directly from P6 (without making the schedule more detailed), you need to start with a well-structured schedule. This schedule should have activities with consistent durations, although it’s not always possible to make all activities the same length in a project.

What I mean is that you can’t create a 3-day lookahead schedule if your original schedule has activities that take more than a week to complete. Ideally, most of your activities should be less than 3 days or even based on hourly durations. This way, you’ll have fewer activities to filter through, unless all activities are happening simultaneously.

However, if you plan to extract the lookahead schedule from the master schedule and the lookahead period is much shorter than the activity duration, you should consider breaking down longer activities.

For instance, if most activities in the master schedule take over 2 months, but you want to present a 3-week lookahead schedule, it wouldn’t make sense to keep the same granularity, as you’d see the same activity repeatedly. In that case, break down the activities to be less than 3 weeks in duration (e.g., less than 15 days).”

 

4. Organize Activities Using WBS/Activity Codes

Just as every artist has their unique style, in Primavera P6, we organise tasks using Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) or activity codes. Think of it as organising a bustling city into neat neighbourhoods. It’s a handy way to arrange and view tasks. And if you’re printing the schedule? It looks much tidier. If WBS doesn’t fit the bill, use activity codes. For instance, if you want your schedule to show which team’s responsible (and it’s not listed in the WBS), just sort it using the “Team” activity code. Simple, right?

Want to add an activity code to your group in P6?

✅ Head to the “Activity” tab and find the “Group and Sort by” button. Click it!

 

 

✅ Looking to mix WBS and activity code? Start with WBS. A window called “Group and Sort by” will pop up. See the “To level” option? Click that and pick the WBS level you want. (Here, I go for WBS Level 4, because I want to organise it by work packages.)

✅ Now, let’s un-indent. Click “Remove Indent“.

 

 

✅ Want a specific activity code? Scroll through the list until you spot the one you need for your lookahead schedule.

 

 

 

 

5. Setting Gantt Chart Display and Activity Column

If schedules were stories, Gantt Charts and activity table would be their storyboards.  To get the most of them:

    • Review what story you want to tell on the activity table (left side of the Gantt Chart). The image below shows the story of project status by highlighting:
      1. Duration difference between baseline and forecast duration at completion.
      2. The progress percent complete.
      3. Tell the risk (show the difference between baseline total float and current forecast float).
      4. Show the schedule delay (Schedule Variance against the Baseline).

 

 

Tweaking the Activity Column in a Few Easy Steps:

At the activity page? Perfect!

    • Click on the activity column.

 

    • Want to find a specific data column? Maybe the baseline duration? Just find “Duration” or type and click on “Find” and type the “BL Project Duration”.

 

    • Once you’ve selected the baseline duration, click the arrow to shift it to where you want.
    • Want to give the column a new name? Just edit away! For example, change “BL Project Duration” to “BL Duration”.

 

 

    • If you’re thinking about adding another column, just repeat these steps. Easy, right?
 Modify Gantt Chart View for Lookahead Schedule

Modifying the Gantt Chart View for the Lookahead Schedule involves a few steps:

    1. First, you’ve filtered the activities using your chosen filter, which is great!
    2. The next step is to set up the criteria to display activities within the selected lookahead range. This allows your team to see both the activities coming up in the lookahead period and those outside of it at a glance. It helps you stay aware of what’s happening beyond the lookahead window.
    3. To do this, you’ll need to define the curtain start date, which marks the end of the lookahead range. For example, if you want a 3-week lookahead schedule starting from August 12th, the end of the 3-week lookahead should be September 2nd or September 5th (if you’re using a 5-day work week calendar).

 

 

    1. You’ll also need to set the curtain end date to highlight activities outside the desired lookahead period. For a 3-week lookahead, set it to one to two weeks from the curtain start date. For a 3-month lookahead, set it to one month from the curtain start date.
    2. The final step for the Gantt chart view is adjusting the page setup. Go to “File” and click “Page Setup.”

 

    1. Make sure the page setup aligns with the lookahead schedule you want to present. For example, if you want to show the progress of the previous week, enter “DD-1W” as the “Timescale Start,” and enter “DD+5W” to cover all activities for the upcoming 5 weeks. Why? Even though you’re focusing on the 3-week lookahead, you still want to flag activities outside that period.

 

  

 

If you’re interested in learning how to customise the Gantt chart format, not just for lookahead schedules but for various Gantt chart views, I recommend checking out the tutorials below:

6. Collaborative Review

Once you’ve prepared the look-ahead schedule, it’s time for a reality check: chat with your team. Does this plan actually make sense for them?

If it’s not hitting the mark or they’re just not into it, it’s back to the drawing board. After all, a plan that nobody uses is just spinning wheels.

So, have a discussion with the team, tweak the details like filters, date range, activity columns, Gantt chart view, and create a schedule that really works for everyone involved.

7. Save P6 Schedule Layout

The final touch? Preserving your work in Primavera P6.

Navigate to “View > Layout”.

Opt to “Save Layout As”, give a layout name for easy retrieval.

 

Master this guide, and you’ll soon be creating lookahead schedules that your team loves.

If you’re still struggling, don’t worry.

Just download the ‘3 Week Lookahead Schedule Layout – Short-Term Lookahead Report ‘, import it, and start practising with real layouts.

This hands-on approach will quickly boost your confidence and skills.

Remember Michael Jordan once said that he missed a lot of shots and faced many failures in his career, but that’s what made him successful.

The key is to keep practising and taking your best shot.

Every challenge you tackle now is helping you become a pro.

With this guide, you’re not just completing tasks; you’re building your confidence and expertise.

Soon, others will look up to you for guidance.

So, let go of your doubts, absorb these insights, and approach your next project with enthusiasm.

Are you ready to take charge?

Let’s go!