Let go of the Post-its!


Enough with the Post-its, already. Our aim is to crate space for more mindful work. More mindful work is more sensitive to customers’ wishes and smarter with avoiding waste.

When did we start using post-its to represent work?

20 years ago as a young professor learning the consulting trade, I coached re-engineering efforts describing the process with post-its on the wall (and, for my sins, wrote a book about it)

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Today, every continuous improvement effort still seems to involve post-its on the wall

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Writing work as “tickets” on a post-it on a board transforms work into a transaction that needs to occur: it is perfectly mindless. It will not allow a discussion about:

  1. How people intend to do the work?
  2. Why they intent to do it that way: what do they have in mind?
  3. What could be thought differently and improved about the work?

Visualizing work on walls is about sharing our thinking with each other, and beyond that, creating a team space to think about the content of the work and our underlying understanding – not the surface discussion that the action plan needs to get done.

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Let go of the post-its. Use visual boards to write down:

  • the problem in terms of what happened with what impact
  • the presumed cause in terms of gap with a standard
  • the countermeasure in terms of what we did to correct the situation
  • the check in terms of whether we feel the countermeasure worked or not

Mindful work starts with a clear description of what we think happened and why we believe it did, then a deep discussion with others of whether this is the case and how they understand the situation until connections, contradictions and sudden insights show us something we hadn’t seen before – which then will naturally lead to actions.

Post-its transform everything into headers, turn work into mindless transactions and, in the end, stop us from thinking rather than, as we thought, support our thinking. What really matters is what is hidden inside the post-its. If you’re serious about continuous improvement, start by changing your mind and letting go of the post-its!

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