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In the early 2000s, I worked at Steelcase. I helped define, implement, coach, and use the Steelcase Production System (SPS), moving back and forth between Value Stream Manager and Coach from the SPS/Lean office.

Operations meetings, at that time, were mostly held in a conference room. People would come, sometimes late, sit around a conference table, discuss issues, and may take notes. It was not always clear who was supposed to do what, by when, and if there was going to be any follow-up at all. Since Rules 1 & 2 (activity and communication) were violated, a better way needed to be found.

With my supervisors from the storage assembly lines, we experimented and defined what will become the accountability board described by my former colleague David Mann in his book “Creating a Lean Culture.”

We decided to move the meeting to the floor, make it a stand-up meeting and use a board and sticky notes to identify decisions made (a decision is the end of a discussion and the beginning of an action.) We defined simple rules such as:

- One action per sticky

- The action owner is the only one who can place a sticky in front of their name

- The stickies that need to move to a new date must carry the original due date

- When the action is completed, it gets a green cross

- When the action is behind, it gets a red dot and triggers additional support from the team

- The board shows the activities for the current week, but also from the past week and the following week

This management process helped us to be more efficient with our time, and nurture discipline and role modeling. Over the past 20 years, thank to “Creating a Lean Culture”, workshops, and presentations the use of accountability boards has become popular in many organizations.

The accountability board is only one element of the Lean Management System. Try it to alleviate the pain from traditional meetings.



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