Saturday, 14 April 2012

Genius...A Dairy Farm Team Whiteboard communication system.

Tauhara Moana Trust near Taupo is a finalist in the 2012 Ahuwhenua Trophy BNZ Maori Excellence in Farming (Dairy) Awards.  
 At a recent “Green to Gold” Discussion Group I was privileged to meet Olly & Kim Gibberd who are milking over 1600 cows on the 693 ha effective Tauhara Moana dairy farm. Olly & Kim are the DairyNZ Central North Island Focus Farm.  I expected to see excellent farm management (which is what I witnessed) but I wasn’t expecting to see a Farm Business Management innovation in the Herringbone shed office.
 In the office was the most amazing & well thought out Dairy Farm Team Whiteboard Communication System. This is very definitely Kim’s baby but it has evolved from a very strong leadership approach by both Olly & Kim. Although they lead by example, their leadership style is one of allowing the Farm Team to manage themselves & to take individual responsibility for their own actions in contributing towards the overall Farm Performance.
 Olly sets the work environment boundaries & the tone in which he expects the team to work together. Everyone in the team knows what the farm business targets are & what is expected of them as individuals in the team. 
What Kim has done is a piece of Farm Business Management genius. She has embedded the key leadership philosophies and the daily tactical management tasks into a Whiteboard Communication system, which is very visual, clearly understood & on which every farm team member contributes every day. This has been achieved by using a series of large Whiteboards around the milking shed office walls. Each Whiteboard is a communication system to individual team members & management. Tasks are set & once completed, all recorded as having been successfully finished. Essential animal health recording of treatments, withholding periods & cow ID are all recorded on the Office Whiteboard system. There is a separate Whiteboard to identify weeds & spraying tasks….this is based on a large farm map. 
The list of Whiteboards includes paddock grazing records, lameness, monthly milk production actual vs targets, jobs needing to be done, a monthly calendar, staff roster, days off & supplies needed.
 Olly & Kim have developed their own unique staff bonus system called the $5 Bonus…it’s based on a $5 reward for a job well done & a $5 penalty for not being at work on time or a job not completed (especially if it causes other staff problems e.g. not shutting gates)…..& you guessed it there’s a “$5 Whiteboard”. Fines are written in red & bonuses are written in blue……it’s very visual & every team member’s bonus performance is clearly visible.
 The Whiteboard system & the different boards have evolved over time. Even the board titles started as permanent pen but once firmly established have evolved into professionally produced by a local sign writer specialising in Whiteboards. There is huge benefit in Kim’s system being highly visible in the epicentre of the farm…the Milking shed office. In this way everyone is fully informed & able to contribute & record key daily management information.
 I think this system could over time evolve further to be computer/smartphone based using cloud technology.
 Each dairy farm could develop their own “Whiteboard Communication System” but don’t rush in and get a heap of boards produced. The Tauhara Moana system has developed over time with staff involvement (it has not been imposed from above) & a Farm Management leadership style which devolves responsibility to the Farm Team to manage, operate & take ownership. 
The Ahuwhenua Trust Awards field day at Tauhara Moana, just north of Taupo is on the 3rd May. I suggest you put it into your diary & on the day have a look at the Whiteboards in the Milking Shed Office. 
Congratulations Olly & Kim, I was very impressed.


  1. A way to communicate is really new to me and i found it very interesting. I have found it the 2nd interesting site after

  2. The communication system of dairy farms team thorough white board is really an improvement in the structure of fairy farm.

  3. This communication system leads this team to the way of success and this has become the easiest way to train the staff and to communicate easily.

  4. In the farms this white board system for communication is also an advanced system. because no other system can stay safe there due to the environment of dairy farms.