Archive for August, 2015

Lego Board


This lego board serves a particular need by a team in a unique way – like all the best board hacks do.

This wall is used by a procurement team for a large organisation as a place for conversations about the status of various procurement projects.  As well as the usual conversations around current status, blockers, progress, the team wanted to have visual indicators that would prompt them to have conversations about how long a project had been running, what stages of procurement it had already been through, etc.

AP lego wall 1

Prototyping to learn

The team started by quickly building a prototype wall using index cards with  mail-merge stickers on them describing each procurement project. This information had previously lived in a spreadsheet. With the work quickly thrown up onto a wall, they asked themselves the question: “What is this wall not telling me?”.

Answer: a lot! There were so many cards it was hard to see what was going on. They were hard to read. And the wall couldn’t tell the team anything about cycle time: how long was each project taking to go through the whole procurement process?

Additionally, one of the team members had a visual disability, so the team wanted something with high contrast and large lettering. This was going to be hard to achieve with cards, given the number of procurement projects which were in flight at any time.

With this learning, the team built a second board, this time from Lego.

The board now

The left hand side of the wall is fairly familiar – a line for each project, with columns for portfolio (coded by colour), category and status, as well as the cost of the project.  It’s over on the right that the fun begins.  The grey lego base board is divided horizontally into sections for each team member – who is limited to no more than 7 projects on the go and has their own little lego avatar and a “one brick” row 2 lugs high for each project.  Vertically, the board  is divided into weeks.

Team members get their own minifigs and each is limited to 7 lines and therefore 7 projects.

Team members get their own minifigs and each is limited to 7 lines and therefore 7 projects.

Each project is tracked using a lego brick.  The size of brick indicates expected length of delivery of the project  and the colour indicates the procurement stage that the project is currently in.

AP lego wall decoder

Brick colour represents process steps. Brick size represents T-shirt – size estimates.

At the beginning of each stage of procurement, a project’s lego brick starts in week 1 and progresses on from there.  At the end of each stage, the number of weeks spent is recorded on the edge of the brick using a sharpie, the appropriate colour brick for the next stage of the procurement process is stacked on top of the previous, and the stack of bricks goes back to week 1.

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Each lego layer shows cycle time for a stage of the procurement process in weeks, together making up the whole project.

Team members can read weeks of cycle time for each project off the scale at the top.

Team members can read weeks of cycle time for each project off the scale at the top.

So it’s easy to see:

  • how long a project has been in it’s current stage according to the week column it is in;
  • the stages it has already been through by the different coloured bricks in it’s stack – not every project uses all steps, so it’s easy to see, for example, when a project hasn’t gone out for RFP as there will be no white brick in it’s stack);
  • which stage any given job is at by the top coloured brick;
  • whether it has been longer than planned in a stage – for example a medium-sized brick shouldn’t be sitting out at week 14; and
  • how long in total it’s been on the go by quickly adding the numbers on the sides of the bricks.

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