DO NOT ERASE! Whiteboards and Work

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I’ve noticed almost every workspace now has a whiteboard prominently featured on at least one wall, even in some pretty small cubicles. Some places have whiteboards in the hallways, cafes, and even in the bathrooms. Brilliant ideas know no bounds and we need to jot them down. Today, whiteboards are as much a part of the workplace as headphones and free coffee.

What’s more interesting is what is written on the whiteboards that seem to be everywhere.

Some are adorned with complicated formulas full of math and chemical symbols that we were supposed to learn in Calculus or Chemistry 101. The formulas can be as complicated as a scene from the movie “Good Will Hunting”. I think the formulas are put there by the computer and math majors at night, just to make sure we know there are smart people around.

A lot of whiteboards are full of words like strategic, and priorities, followed by a list. The list always has words like communication and stakeholders on it. Those whiteboards seem to never get erased and no one pays attention to them. Related whiteboard graphics are full of project management scorecards. The word “DONE” is on a lot of these boards.

Every whiteboard seems to have art down low, by the tray that holds the erasers. The art was created by all the bored kids who entertained themselves while mom or dad tried to get some things done – usually on a weekend.

Forget the overpowering smell of the markers. Whiteboards are incredible workplace tools. They allow for creativity expression; thinking out loud; keeping track of agendas; scheduling work; leaving messages for the next occupant of the space; brainstorming and keeping to-do lists.

More importantly, whiteboards are good reminders that sometimes things need to be erased and we need to start all over.

A few tips for using your whiteboard at work:

  • Never put something on your whiteboard that you don’t want your boss to see.
  • Be prepared: all whiteboards will be erased. Even when the DO NOT ERASE plea is prominent.
  • The dry erase markers will be most dry when you need them the most.
  • Take a photo of any of your important work that is displayed on a whiteboard.
  • Whiteboards are like Post-It notes – only bigger. Use them for reminders.
  • Erase your whiteboard at least once a week, put new ideas on it, even if the ideas don’t seem good at the time.
  • Placing any obscene or rude comment or drawing on a whiteboard could get you fired. And should.
  • Whiteboards that feature project plans should be color coded. Beware the red markers
  • What’s on your whiteboard?

Rich Moran is the author of Navigating Tweets, Feats, and Deletes, a book that shares workplace lessons and insights on how to succeed in today’s digitally disrupted workplace.


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