Often, people jokingly accuse me of owning stock in 3M. Why? Because I tend to use and coach others to use lots of Post-it® notes. I do have an affinity for the 3X3 inch variety, not because I am a 3M stockholder, but because the ubiquitous notes are such an effective tool for kaizen.

Kaizen is largely about capturing and understanding the current state and the related issues, problems, root causes and opportunities. Kaizen is also about the flow of the kaizeners’ improvement ideas – sharing, communicating, building on them, adjusting, organizing, prioritizing, assigning and executing them. Post-it® notes facilitate all that.

The notes are visual, colorful (colors should mean something), adjustable, movable, scrappable (low cost, easy to create a new one) and tactile things. These characteristics make it easy to get people started – get people writing, talking, moving, sharing, debating, etc.

Post-it® notes do not engender the same fear that often accompanies the more permanent pen or even pencil on a flip chart, plotter/kraft paper, etc. The notes also avoid the hypnotic and less than collaborative effects of the computer around which a bunch of folks try to gather (if you’re lucky it’s an LCD projector) while one person controls the keyboard and mouse.

Here’s a short list of Post-it® note applications:

  • process mapping
  • value stream analysis
  • product family analysis matrix
  • Gantt charts
  • plus/deltas
  • set-up reduction analysis
  • countermeasure prioritization
  • affinity exercises
  • failure modes and effects analysis
  • cause and effect diagrams
  • layout analysis

So, I wrote a really lame ode to the 3X3 Post-it® note…because I could (sort of). Don’t worry, I won’t quit my day job.

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Oh noble 3X3 Post-it® note, I am utterly lost without thee.

You enable team members to think and engage, worry free.

Your portability and stick allow a helpful lack of permanence,

The better to help us storm, “affinitize,” prioritize and make sense.

Your hue can mean “process” or “kaizen burst,” whatever we please,

When a flow chart needs a diamond, we simply spin you 45 degrees.

Our scissors work you into a triangle if a V.S. map has a queue,

When you are side-by-side (continuous flow), truly we love you.

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Yes, the ode is lame…but, you’ve got to love those little 3X3 Post-it® notes.

Related post: Plus Delta – The Kaizen Team’s Sunrise Reflection