The elegance of the sticky note for problem solving

September 4th, 2015 by John Gallagher 2 Comments

So many technological tools out there right now with the laptop, the tablet, and the smartphone, to name a few.  There are spreadsheets and slide decks and projectors and software as well.

But, there is just something about the simple elegance of the sticky note for visual problem solving as a tool.


Here are 5 reasons I often like the sticky note over technology:

  1. It moves freely – Often, when coaching I build process flow maps or matrices and when a step is missed, or a better idea comes up, you just lift it off the wall and move it over, down, across and re-stick it!!
  2. It forces conciseness – Much like a Twitter post, your characters are limited if you want to be able to read it from a distance.  Verb and a noun! That’s all you need.
  3. It improves brainstorming – By giving everyone in your group one of those little stacks, you are sure to get all of their thoughts.  And, it is easier to move them into themes once you ahve the ideas.  (Refer to reason 1)
  4. It makes for a good reminder – You can’t hit ‘dismiss’ on a sticky note.  Just recently, I needed to remember to get something out of the fridge before I left, so I wrapped that sticky around the car keys and, sure enough, I would have forgotten!
  5. It is symmetrical – the 3 x 3 is my favorite, but that is the engineer in me.

This might be overdoing it, though:

sticky notes overdone

Are you a fan of sticky notes?


April 1st, 2015 by John Gallagher No Comments



I had a friend ask me recently about a simple process they might be able to use with their team to review “How are things going?”  Often times, individuals or organizations don’t invest enough time in a formal review process that, done correctly, can make minor course corrections in tactics that get you back moving toward your objective.  Rather, they feel things aren’t working and make drastic changes and end up further off course then when they started.  Antique Compass

The 6-step process below will help get you back on track and can work with self-reflection or team reflection.

1) The simple “+/-” tool.  Draw a T-diagram with a plus on the left side and a minus on the right side of a piece of paper, a flip chart, or dry erase board and ask 2 questions:  1) what is going well (+) ? and 2) What isn’t going well (-)?  Try to list out all of the things that are going well first before moving to the what isn’t going well question.  (NOTE: If you are doing this with a team, it could be important to have each team member write each one of their thoughts down on a sticky note – 1 thought per sticky.  This ensures that you get input from ALL voices).

2) K,S,S (Keep, Start, Stop)– After reflecting on the list, list out one thing you should KEEP doing, one thing you should START doing, and one thing you should STOP doing based on the T-diagram.  The natural tendency is to START making drastic changes and do a lot more things.  Resist this urge.  You are probably already very busy.  Try hard to have no more than one Start for every Stop.  This ensures that you don’t overburden yourself or your team.   A wise friend once told me that “You can do ANYTHING you want… you just can’t do EVERYTHING you want”

3) What, Who, When – Assign accountability and due dates.  What needs to be done?  Who is responsible for doing it, and When will it be done?  Try not to extend the due dates out past 90 days.  If you have to go further than that, the task is probably too big.  Keep the list visual.  This also helps with accountability.  Post it on a flip chart in your office.

4) Ask for help –  Share your things you need to do with someone.  Share it with God in prayer…Ask for help.  Share it with your spouse…ask for help.  Share it with a mentor…ask for help.  Share it with a family member…ask for help.  Share it with a friend…ask for help.  Key thing.  Don’t try to do it alone.

5) Schedule regular reviews – Check in with yourself or others formally — weekly (maybe Friday mornings at 7:30) or monthly (3rd Monday of every month).  Keep the reviews brief.  Are you on track or not?  If you are, move on.  If you are not on track, develop a countermeasure and ask for help.

6) Continuously improve – When you get all of the items complete, did they work?  Make the new activity (or those activities) part of your new routine.  Then, repeat the process… go back to Step #1


Try it out.  Let me know how it goes. What steps would you add to this process?


July 26th, 2014 by John Gallagher No Comments


In this episode of ‘Timeout’ (a Podcast devoted to our passion for coaching in youth sports), Michael and I talk about 5 Ways to get back on track.  Originally, we had set a goal to do one podcast per month, but we had not accomplished it.  Our intentions were good.  It is easy to get off track.  The question is, “How do we get back on track?”  It was a fun discussion.  Hope you enjoy!


Character Counts – 2014 edition

July 8th, 2014 by John Gallagher No Comments



Back in 2008, I posted a blog titled Character Counts after watching an epic battle at Wimbledon between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.  Fast forward to 2014.  I truly enjoyed watching another epic tennis match between the aforementioned Federer and Novak Djokovic.  Again, the match didn’t disappoint.  Federer saving match point in the 4th set and rallying to force a fifth set.  Djokovic dominated his service game not being broken until the 4th set.  The numbers for the match were incredibly close.  There were 366 total points played.  Finaly tally was Djokovic 186, Federer 180.

But, it was their display of Character that caught my attention and keeps my attention in the majors:

  • No taunting or trash talking by either player
  • No berating of the officials
  • They treated each other and the grounds crew with respect

federer djokovic 2014 wimbledon

The end told me more, though.  After the match at trophy presentation:

“I dedicate this to my future wife and our future baby. I’m going to be a father soon. It’s a great joy of life. And last but not least to my first coach, who taught me all the basics of tennis, how to behave and everything I know about tennis, Jelena Gencic.”

– Djokovic dedicates win to fiancee Jelena Ristic and his first coach who passed away last year.

“I felt the love out here, so thanks a lot. See you next year.”

– Federer, who will be 33 next year, vows to be back in 2015.

The rest of the sports world can learn a lot from these 2 class acts.  Can’t wait to see what 2015 brings!

What is the greatest exhibition of good Character in sports that you have observed?  Do you think displays like this have an impact on our youth?


April 10th, 2014 by John Gallagher 1 Comment



In this episode of ‘Timeout’ (a Podcast devoted to our passion for coaching in youth sports), Michael and I talk about our “Top 3 Foul shooters of all time” and some of the drills those shooters employ.  It’s a discussion about who WE would want on the foul line in crunch time.   We also talk about our top moments from the recent NCAA tournament, and discuss the state of NASCAR (after I gloat in picking Dale Jr as the Daytona 500 winner.  Hope you enjoy.


After listening, we hope you will engage in the conversation.  Here are two questions for discussion:

1) Who would YOUR top 3 free throw shooters be?

2) If you have an undefeated team at the end of their regular season and prior to moving into tournaments, do you feel it would be better to LOSE a game to relieve the pressure?  Why or why not? We will discuss this in our next Podcast.

Thanks for listening.


April 6th, 2014 by John Gallagher 2 Comments



The three most important ladies in my life… my wife, my mother, and my mother-in-law… have spiritual gifts.  Leaders have spiritual gifts.  Therefore, the ladies in my life are leaders.  (My son told me that, in logical terms,  is a ‘valid statement’ (IAI2)).  Here is a picture of them with a few other fantastic ladies.

ladies in lifeFrom left to right: My mother-in-law, Nancye.  Her Mom, Madge.  My mom, Vickey,  our friend-Mandy Ball, my lovely wife, Chris, and my favorite sister-in-law, Lisa!

Now, I believe that my wife, mother, and mother-in-law have the gift of hospitality, but more importantly, they have the ability to take some ordinary moment and turn it into an EXTRA-ordinary experience!  What do I mean?

Recently, we had friends over to the house for a barbecue.  Of course, I would have put out the regular condiments like the ones below:

ordinaryThat really is all you need, right?  Relish, mayonnaise, mustard, ketchup.   But, my wife took the time to transfer all of the condiments into different containers to make the experience go from ordinary bottles, to extra-ordinary presentation:

extraordinaryThe containers were a gift from my mother.  My mother-in-law is famous for little presentation ideas like this.  It is amazing how she can present grape jelly!!  Call me crazy, but I think the condiments actually TASTED better from these containers.  You see, these ladies have an ability to take something ordinary like ketchup and mustard and present it in a special, extraordinary way.  Why?  Because they want to do extra work?  NO!!!!  It is because they CARE about others and want to make an ordinary burger and dog taste like an extra-ordinary experience from a 5-star restaurant!  Our friends referred to the ketchup as ‘special’, and to the store-brand yellow mustard as ‘grey poupon’.  Frankly, I have not honored these women enough for their EXTRA-ordinary love.

I believe their ability to turn ordinary into extra-ordinary has been a gift to me as a husband, son, son-in-law, AND leader.  I hope that I am able to create extra-ordinary moments for others like they often do for me, my family, and friends.

So, I have a couple questions for the Leaders who follow my blog:

1) When was the last time you turned an ordinary experience into an extra-ordinary moment for those you lead?  

2)  When was the last time you let a special person in your life know you appreciate their ability to do that for you?

Thank you, Chris.  Thank you, Mom.  Thank you, Mrs. White… for caring enough to create extra-ordinary moments for me and others.  I love you all.




Lean Donut Maker?

March 16th, 2014 by John Gallagher No Comments



It’s the lean geek in me.  I was able to attend the Duke UNC Lacrosse game recently and at the game, there was a vendor selling “mini-donuts” – Man, they smelled good!  Had to check it out.  What a great surprise when I also got to see the donut making in action:

Having trouble watching the embedded video, click the link below:

Lean Donut Maker

My mind went to the Lean concepts I was seeing… It is just how I am wired:

1) 16 pieces of SWIP – 8 cooking on each side

2) Raw material in small funnel dropping at cycle time

3) Finished donuts… Looked like about 3 sold units (I think we got 8 mini-donuts in our bag.  $6 or $0.75/donut seemed a little high)

4) So, do you think they adjust the machine based on demand?  Probably not.  We were there early enough, but the line at halftime was about 40 people long!!

Oh, and they tasted really good!  I only got one.  My son was not a very good sharer!

To my Lean geek cohorts: After learning the tools, do you find yourself constantly evaluating these types of things from a Lean standpoint?  What Lean observations outisde of ‘work’ would you share?