Nice Video about “Idea Boards” for Kaizen


Screen Shot 2013-07-17 at 8.59.13 PMThanks to George Friesen for pointing me toward his video about “Idea Boards” as a Kaizen methodology.

Like George, I was inspired to start using this approach thanks to David Mann‘s outstanding book Creating a Lean Culture: Tools to Sustain Lean Conversions. George's video is about factories… I've introduced it to many healthcare organizations (and a non-profit) and I shared some of these experiences in the book  Healthcare Kaizen.

Here is the video:

As the people say in the video:

  • The board is transparent, simple, clear, and open
  • It's not a suggestion box that you stuff full of ideas (I'd add, where they never get seen!)
  • People are more involved, their voices can be heard
  • Kaizen can have a big financial impact, although that's not the only thing that matters
  • It helps change people's way of thinking
  • People's ideas are important, no matter how small or how large

I do, however, use and recommend  a structured card  instead of a free-form sticky note (which is what Mann's book suggested. It's good to gather ideas (which are collected on the sticky/post-it notes), but I think a structured card that prompts someone to first state a problem (or opportunity) before then giving an idea (or countermeasure or “solution”) leads to better results.

Things that are generally prompted on the card include:

  • Problem (or opportunity)
  • Idea
  • Expected benefits
  • Who else do we need input from?

This is helpful because if the original idea isn't affordable or isn't practical for some reason,  you can go back to the problem statement and find another idea that addresses that problem.

Do you use Idea Boards? If so, what works for you? Do you have a picture of a board to share? If so, click here. Or see examples of boards and individual Kaizen improvements from other organizations.

Listen to my podcast with David Mann, from 2006.

Idea boards work great for local teams and they are simple and effective (I teach how to use them in my on-site workshops and public workshops). But, an electronic idea board, like KaiNexus  (where I'm on the management team), has its advantages for distributed teams. And, KaiNexus gives a web-based method for easy sharing completed ideas across multiple departments or sites, even if you are using a analog visual board.

What do you think? Please scroll down (or click) to post a comment. Or please share the post with your thoughts on LinkedIn – and follow me or connect with me there.

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Mark Graban
Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker, and podcaster with experience in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. Mark's new book is The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation. He is also the author of Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More, the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, and the anthology Practicing Lean. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.


  1. I think it is a great procedure, if you have effective management. The only time I have observed this board was an utter failure. The post-it notes made it to the done column, but know one knew if the idea was accepted or rejected. Should we be doing this or not? It gave an excuse for management to not talk to their employees.

    One idea was to install a catwalk to allow easier unloading of railcars. I thought it was better to install a catwalk above the tanks above the filling lines to check the product before containers were filled. It should be in the procedure for all employees to make comments without starting another note. Again this was a poorly managed company where managers/supervisors never talked to employees or held team meetings. They thought putting up the board would solve their communication problems. It only magnified the problem.

    Would suggest the procedure be updated to include a step to actually talk to the employee about their idea and to give all employees the opportunity to comment. Do not assume management knows this.

    • That’s why in our 5-step Kaizen process in our book (Joe’s creation), it goes:

      1) Find ideas
      2) DISCUSS ideas
      3) Implement
      4) Document
      5) Share (& recognize)

      In the hands of manager who doesn’t respect their employees, this board would be a waste and would probably make morale worse.

      It’s hard to imagine how bad managers would expect a physical board to magically make things better.


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