Mistake Proofing Your To-Do List

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Video Highlights:

00:30 Big Think Little Do vs. Little Think Big Do
01:30 Lean’s Emphasis on Action
02:30 A typical Meeting
03:57 A Simple Action Lever
05:24 What Action Boards are Not
05:57 How to Build an Action Board
13:02 Using an Action Box

If you’ve been involved in lean for any amount of time then you’ve probably heard the saying “little think – big do,” which contrasts 180 degrees out from what might be considered common sense in the traditional management mode, namely “big think – little do.”

In the more than 25 years that I have been leading Lean implementations, not one single time have I not said at least one hundred times, you have to act! If you don’t capture the actions before you walk out of the room, no matter how brilliant the ideas or discussions are, it all drops on the floor and disappears the minute you walk out of that room. There have to be actions! Out of every meeting, out of every workshop and even out of most stand-up meetings.

But capturing the actions is only half of it. Once you have the actions, you want to insure they get done in a timely manner. Here’s how you can do both, in a really simple, mistake proofed way:

Step 1: Break the bigger actions down into smaller chunks using the Action Box:
Write the big task down in the middle, and then methodically list out smaller tasks that need to be done in order to accomplish the big task. Try to think of something that can be done in half a day, the less time, the better. So something between 2-4 hours. If you don’t hit all eight, that’s okay. Just put the empty shells there to drive thoroughness.

Step 2: Create an Action Board and post the actions
The main action goes on the left, an accountable person next to that, and then a timeline that matches your schedule at the top.

Step 3: Fill out each of the tasks from step 1 above, adding in names and due dates of those responsible
Make sure that whoever signs up (one of the team members who is present) is able to deliver the executed task in the timeframe they give you – not too soon and not to far away. Be realistic.

Step 4: Have the responsible individuals update their tasks before every meeting.
This allows everyone to always know what the current status is, with a quick glance. Use a red marker to cross through the task stickie, in 25% – 50% – 75% increments. When a task is done, move it to the completed column during the meeting.

Your results will take off as soon as you begin with this powerful tool, so take action now.

I’m very interested in your feedback, so please take a minute to let me know what you think in the comment section below.

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