Posted by: Adam Deane | 18/03/2010

BPM: Tasklist Wooden Blocks

control towerA few years ago, I was invited to visit the air traffic control tower at one of the international airports.
Screens, computers, lots of bleeping, great fun..
One of the things that caught my eye was the way the air traffic controllers manage aircraft take-offs.

A computer would print each of the plane’s flight-plan information on a small strip of paper.
The controller would take the strip and slide it onto a small wooden block (the size of a small ruler).
The controller had around 10 blocks in a queue in front of him.
He could, if needed, quickly change the order of take-offs by swapping the order of the blocks.
As each plane took off, he would remove the paper details from the block, move the block to the back of the queue and stick a strip on the block.

Although everything was computerized, this manual override procedure gave them the flexibility to run the operation smoothly, while staying within the policy and safety boundaries.
progress strip
I have used many task-lists in the past, but never found one as simple as the wooden blocks method.
Employee’s task-list are usually ordered by date and priority. You never have the flexibility to adjust the tasks to fit ad-hoc prioritisation.

Wouldn’t it be great to have task-list wooden blocks?


  1. I had the same idea: why not use a system like flight progress strips (used by ATC), in an office environment for todo lists. Unfortunately could not find any existing solution for this.

  2. […] aren’t any existing products on the market that resemble the fps system (although at least someone has had this idea before […]

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