Idea boards, also known as huddle boards or Kaizen boards, are very popular with businesses of all types. An idea board is a way to visualize opportunities for improvement. They are usually posters or white boards hanging on the wall of a department or team. They are generally segmented into stages such as “to-do, doing, and done.” Opportunities are placed on sticky notes or affixed in some other way and they move from one stage to the other until they are completed. The approach has some attractive advantages, but some downsides as well.
There are good reasons that idea boards are so popular. They include:
Clarity – The visual approach to improvement is a very effective way to quickly and clearly communicate the status of work. People can immediately see progress or recognize when work is stalled. A picture, as they say, is worth a thousand words. You always know the status of improvements, and can see as they move through the improvement cycle.
Engagement – Idea boards are often used in conjunction with a daily meeting focused on improvement efforts. Everyone gathers around the board to report on the status of projects or add new ideas. This is a good way to keep the team focused on improvement. The fact that it remains out in the open between meetings increases engagement as well since improvement is not "out of sight, out of mind."
Bottom-up Management – The opportunities for improvement that are visualized on the idea board rarely come from upper management. The bulk of them come directly from the front line staff who is actually performing the processes that are to be improved. Not only does this increase the team’s emotional investment in improvement, but it is also more likely to yield positive and lasting results. After all - these are the people most likely to be able to identify daily opportunities for improvement in their work.
There are also a few downsides to physical idea boards.
Proximity is required – These days many teams are distributed and telecommuting is quite common. With a physical idea board, remote workers do not get the benefits of visualized management. Teams in dispersed locations can't see what other people are working on, resulting in improvement silos.
It’s only a snapshot – An idea board gives you an instant understanding of the state of work today, but what about ideas that have been implemented in the past? Sure you get a snap shot of the present state, but you don’t get any context and can’t learn the valuable lessons from what has been tried before. Once the cards get removed from the "done" column, it's only a matter of time before the knowledge is lost.
There’s no long term impact assessment – In the same way that a physical idea board doesn’t tell you what has happened before, it also doesn’t provide a mechanism for tracking the future results of completed improvements. This makes it difficult, if not impossible, to determine how improvement efforts contribute to the organization’s strategic goals and objectives. We all know that what gets measured matters, and it's tough to measure and report on the impact from notecards on a bulletin board.
Fortunately, these challenges can be easily overcome. The solution is to opt for digital idea boards instead of traditional ones. This modern approach to idea boards displays the boards in their normal spots on walls AND computers across the organization, resolving the proximity issue by putting the board in the cloud where anyone can access it at any time, from anywhere. It also allows for the collection of information about each improvement over time. Lessons learned are captured and a repository of knowledge is created, so people can do a topical search to learn from the improvements that have been made in the past. Finally, the impact of change is automatically measured over the long haul, making it possible to get an accurate picture of how improvement work impacts the business.
For more information, learn about:
- What the boards look like and how they work
- How they impact collaboration
- The impact, activity, and engagement reports that come from using software to track ideas
- The added components of an improvement that you get when using software (and miss when using cards)
Idea boards represent exactly the kind of thinking that helps organizations harness the creativity and energy of every employee. Get the most out of yours by using software designed to support improvement, capture results, and make visual management available to everyone.