Category: Tips

Personal Kanban Board Take 2

You might recall a post from almost one year ago when I introduced the concept of personal kanban boards.  I began using this tool that week and I have not gone a day without using my board since!  I find this tool to be very effective for my work (projects, correspondence, coordination of activities, etc.).

If you compare the below picture to the graphic in the 2012 blog post you will see that my personal kanban has evolved quite a bit – a little bit of check and adjust.  I have made many changes over this past year to adapt the board to fit my needs, I think this is a very important step in making your kanban board work for you.

Here is a bit about some of the changes I made to my board:

  • I color coded my work (stickies) by month – giving each month a color allows me to see items that are falling behind.  A month works great for the type of work I do.
  • I changed my headings – the original PDCA heading was more confusing than helpful (personal opinion, I know others who find these headings to work well).   I came up with three headings: my “hopper” are items I will work on at some point, “today” is work items for the day, and my “waiting” column allows me to keep track of items that I sent off but will be waiting for a response on.
  • I also strategically limited my column sizes.  For instance, my “today” column cannot fit more than five stickies.  I would despise working a day with more than five stickies – so this board constraint holds me to that.  Limiting your work in process (WIP) is one rule for personal kanban.  The other rule is to visualize your work.

In the past year, I also found a great website that helped me better understand this concept:

If you are interested in starting a personal kanban board for yourself or your work group, please contact me.  We have many examples across campus to give you some ideas.

Wendy's Personal Kanban March 2013
Wendy's Personal Kanban March 2013

What is DMAIC?

By Megan Johnson, Student Process Improvement Coordinator

This summer while I was at Caterpillar, I had the opportunity to train and test for my Six Sigma Green Belt.  In the Six Sigma improvement methodology, there are belts that, similar to karate, indicate a level of expertise or experience.  Yellow Belts have basic training; Green Belts learn more about Six Sigma tools and participate in CPI (Continuous Product/Process Improvement) or NPI (New Product/Process Introduction) projects.  Black Belts and Master Black Belts have more advanced Six Sigma training and devote 100% of their time to improvement through Six Sigma.  My Green Belt training was in the DMAIC methodology.

DMAIC means:

Define: Define the problem, the Voice of the Customer (VOC), and goals.

Measure: Measure, collect data.

Analyze: Analyze the data and seek the root cause of the problem.

Improve: Improve the process or product—identifying the countermeasure(s).

Control: Control the future state—create a visual workplace, monitor the product/process, etc.

Having had a Lean background prior to my 6 Sigma Green Belt training, I felt that the DMAIC methodology correlated well to the Four Step Problem Solving Process that is used in Lean Kaizen Events.

Image from :

Lean Tips Exercise

Lean Consultants, Larry & Mike, were on campus again this past week.  During there visit, they facilitated a very memorable training exercise with our Lean facilitators.  It involved each facilitator choosing a “Lean Tip” from a sheet of over 50 tips that Mike has collected throughout the years and relating that tip to their Lean training experience thus far.  Here are some examples of the tips:

  • Team members will become “lean thinkers” at different times; keep moving forward, sharing successes and lessons until you hit the tipping point for true culture change.
  • Fairness and respect for all are cornerstones.
  • Do not attempt changes/improvements without the input of affected stakeholders.

Kari Pietrzyk, Event Associate in the MUB presented on the tip, “the greatest risk is not taking one.”  Here is her take:

“The greatest risk is not taking one.  We would never learn if we never tried.  We have to take risks to go further in our personal lives, like having children or starting a new job.  Inventions would have never happened.  There would be no airplanes, automobiles of computers.  Life is full of risks, we need to choose wisely, to which ones will take us further and which ones will stop us in our tracks.  We can learn from our mistakes or choose to ignore them.  Every mistake is one step closer to doing something the correct way.  I believe Lean is all about taking risks.  To accomplish any task requires some risk.  To make a process better also requires a risk.” 

Kari, far left, with her fellow Lean Facilitators during training.

Metrics Boards

Blog post written by: Kaylee Betzinger, Student Process Improvement Coordinator

Metrics boards are used to showcase an area’s leading performance indicators and valued or strategic goals.  Over the past few weeks, staff in each residence hall kitchen have been working together to standardize metric board layout and eliminate the “waste” associated with the current state of their boards (or lack of boards). 

The 5S methodology was utilized to see this project out.  Sorting through the metrics that were currently being displayed, creating an order, shining (purchasing new boards where needed), and a weekly rotation schedule to insure all the metrics get updated each week (sustain).  

There are now metrics boards, as well as safety boards, in each of the halls.  Metric boards track food waste in dollars and pounds, inventory on hand, and other key performance indicators.  The safety boards track days without incident and display lockdown and evacuation procedures, weekly operating reports, and monthly kitchen safety inspection sheets. With the new metrics boards in place, there is less confusion amongst staff and key performance indicators are reinforced.  It is also recommended that Daily Team Meetings take place at the metrics board.  

Take a look at some of the before and after pictures from this project:   

Before – General Information Board


Before - Misc. information everywhere!



After – Metrics Board



After - Safety Board

Personal Kanban Board

Kanban is a Japanese term that means “signboard.”  It is a tool used in Lean practice to communicate upstream when inventory (product or information) is needed downstream (in the next step of the process).  Kanban is used to support just-in-time processes. 

Using the idea of a kanban, I played around with the idea of a kanban board for my personal inventory – my time.  Where will I devote my time  today, tomorrow?  In other words, what is pulling my time?  I used the PDCA Cycle as the outline for my personal kanban, as you will see in the image below.  It was a super simple project.  The “Do” is my projects today.  “Plan” is what is upcoming.  Tasks in my “Check” and “Adjust” columns will need attention down the road and will most likely flow through the PDCA cycle again.  I used stickies so they can be moved easily.  You will also notice the green star sticky – that is a hot topic I need to address!  I imagine there will be more visual controls like the green star incorporated as I continue to use this tool. 

Daily Team Meetings

Daily team meetings are short 5-10 minute meetings that happen each day for a work unit, area or department.  They are quick, to the point meetings, used to bring forth challenges, roadblocks and safety concerns in semi-real time.  At meetings and immediate response of coordinated effort can be made to tackle such challenges and problems. 

Common Characteristics of Daily team Meetings

  • Standing meetings (keeps topics quick and to the point)
  • All members participate, some methods include: round robin, last to arrive speaks first, pass a token around
  • Occurs at the same spot each day, usually at the gemba (where the work is done)
  • Agenda: what happened yesterday (problems?), todays hot topics, areas for improvement
  • Begin and end on time – even if someone is late

This is a picture from this morning’s Wads Bakery daily team meeting.  There were no problems for the day, the hot topic was a new type of sugar cookie graphic that was being used to display the Rozsa logo for cookies that will be sold at the Rozsa Center’s performance of Momix: Botanica this weekend.

Spring “Cleaning”

Spring and early summer can be a slower period for many departments on campus.  This is a great time to set aside a few days to make some improvements in your area or within the processes that you work with.  Here are some of the improvement events taking place this spring on campus:

  • Golf Course merchandising process – Improvements were made to the process of moving inventory that is delivered to the sale floor in April
  • Campus Directory update process – The annually printed campus directory currently requires a 2-3 month long process for updating  and formatting content.  A team will seek improvements for the process in June.
  • Facilities Shared Network Drive 5S Project – The “P” Drive in Facilities was a mess; some employees didn’t even know where they saved their own files.  Their shared drive is undergoing a transformation that will include guidelines so that new order will be maintained. 

What should you be cleaning this spring?