Let’s Play Match Game ’15 – Suggestion Box Edition

Screen Shot 2015-08-03 at 7.49.37 AM
YouTube: Match Game Productions

I guess this counts as a “Flashback Friday,” as I was reminded of an old game show that I loved as a kid: Match Game. I was too young to fully appreciate the show, I guess, but I remember it fondly and love watching old reruns (you can find episodes on YouTube).

Last week, I read this article: “A happy workforce is a productive one.”

You'll certainly get no argument from me on that!

Well, I think “engagement” is more important than happiness, as happiness might possibly be superficial. But I've long said that an engaged workforce is the key to success in an organization.

I thought the article got off track when the author brought up suggestion boxes. Oh no. Suggestion boxes never work.

So I took a line from the article and posed it as a Match Game type question on Twitter:

A number of Twitter followers played along and submitted their answers for the blank.

As you're thinking of an answer that might match the answers from our panelists, this Match Game “thinking music” might be helpful.

The responses from our Twitter panel (view them on Twitter by clicking here):

Screen Shot 2015-08-03 at 7.55.57 AM

Hear Mark read this post (subscribe to the podcast series):

So we had:

  • Cynical
  • Dreadful
  • Waste of time
  • Disingenuous
  • Meager
  • Ineffective
  • Patronizing
  • Demoralizing

Those are all good answers. What was your answer? Leave a comment below, even if it's a single word, ala Match Game.

What's the alternative to suggestion boxes? An effective “Kaizen” program engages people in a far more constructive way.

Here's the full quote from the article:

“Alongside employee surveys, adding a suggestion box monitored on a monthly basis is a great way for employees to share their opinions throughout the working week. Another benefit of a suggestion box is that the responses will reflect current issues and changes within the workplace. Obviously, you may receive the odd vague idea on how to improve the working environment, such as more vending machine options, but the mere presence of the suggestion box demonstrates to employees that you value and respect them.”

...adding a suggestion box monitored on a monthly basis is a _______ way for employees to share their opinions... #lean Share on X

So what are the problems in what's proposed?

1) A box, by its nature, hides ideas from others instead of encouraging collaboration and discussion. Kaizen methods are much more visual and transparent (using boards or even software).

2) If the box is monitored MONTHLY, that's way too slow. Good ideas shouldn't sit and rot for a month. People get discouraged when they don't get quick feedback. In a Kaizen process, leaders and the team will discuss ideas each day, with far less lag time.

3) Suggestion boxes do tend to attract random ideas, such as vending machine food requests, instead of thinking about process improvement. Kaizen leaders engage with employees to talk about how to make things better for customers or how to achieve our business goals.

4) The presence of the suggestion box usually does NOT demonstrate to employees that they are valued and respected. An effective Kaizen system can do that much better.

Down with suggestion boxes. Long live continuous improvement!

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.

Did you like this post? Make sure you don't miss a post or podcast — Subscribe to get notified about posts via email daily or weekly.

Check out my latest book, The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation:

Get New Posts Sent To You

Select list(s):
Previous articleThrowback Thursday: How My Blog Rant Helped Keep an Office 5S Initiative from Being “L.A.M.E.”
Next articleUsing Lean to Organize Hospital Closets… NPR Commenters Are Not Impressed
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.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.