The Five-minute Whiteboard

One of the powerful tools I use in my business is The Five-minute Whiteboard.  This is designed to ensure that everyone on the team knows which of our tasks are the 20 percent that will result in 80 percent of the results.  It works for a team of up to seven or eight members. 

I’ve installed a huge white board in our office.  We write each team member’s name across the top with a different color of marker.  In our staff meetings, each person then brain dumps everything they have to do during the coming week.  It doesn’t matter whether it is a small little thing or a really big thing—we list everything.  After everyone has listed their tasks, they then put an “A” “B” or “C” next to each task to give it a priority (“A” for vital, “C” not so much). 

We then all stand back and look over the board.  We’re then able to see that if this person doesn’t get something done, this other person won’t be able to get her highest priority done. We also discuss if items need a higher priority or if they are not really that important.

As the week goes on, each team member crosses off completed tasks.  They also have the ability to write on someone else’s list.  If there is a task anywhere on the board that is critical to you, you can increase its priority.  I have even put big red circles around someone’s task, letting them know that it is getting to be a hot potato in the business and that they need to deal with it.  When one team member’s list is getting shorter, they’re expected to help someone else with their list and cross off items.

There are three very powerful functions this Five-minute Whiteboard fills:

  1. Instantly, everyone on the team knows what the critical tasks are for the week.
  2. The team knows when someone is overburdened, and they can help him or her out.  If John has 15 “A” items on his list, the rest of the team knows not to dump more onto him.  If Matt only has a few smaller items, he knows he must help John.
  3. It provides accountability and transparency in the organization, which ensures that everyone is actually producing and being effective.


I have found that the Five-minute Whiteboard is the most powerful when we do it on a Friday afternoon rather than first thing Monday morning.  This allows everyone to subconsciously begin thinking through their task lists so that on Monday morning they are geared up and ready to attack.

Recently, I witnessed yet one more example of how effective our five minute white board is.  We had a situation where we had a large shipment that had been stalled due to some shipping infrastructure issues.  As a result we had $150,000 worth of merchandise just sitting in our warehouse waiting to be shipped—and holding up our cash flow.  The day finally came when the truck was able to come, but he showed up two-and-a-half hours earlier than scheduled.  Loading this truck and getting this shipment off was an “A+” item on our warehouse manager’s list.  When the truck showed up early, not one word was said.  Everyone on the team just got up, put on their coats and gloves, and went out into the cold parking lot to help Cameron load the truck.  Everyone knew this shipment was critical to our business and essential to the cash flow.  Everyone understood and was in tune with the environment of the company.  That is the power of the Five-minute Whiteboard.