Operation Easy Breezy School Mornings

Operation Easy Breezy School Mornings

It’s 715am and there is madness running rampant through the house. My 5 year old is screaming and totally melting down because he can’t find his “special” shirt. My 6-year-old is keeping himself busy with his baseball card collection and is dressed in his ultra accessorized Golden State Warriors gear. My husband is half dressed, brushing his teeth and responding to a client via email on his phone. I’m in the kitchen making three meals at once; breakfast for the hAngry kids that they decide to complain about as soon as they hear it’s not pancakes; lunches for the kids; and stressing out to put a crockpot dish together in hopes of avoiding an evening like the morning. It’s a school day.

This is how it used to be for us almost every day with the exception of pancake days when we wouldn’t get any sass about breakfast. This was a terrible way to begin each morning. There was way too much yelling, tears, and stern tones for a 1 hour period. I decided that something had to change. Our current system wasn’t working for anyone.


This is about one Mama’s journey to create a sustainable solution to messy, maddening, and manic mornings with the help of Lean Manufacturing Principles.

My name is Sarah Cheek. I’m a tenured Intensive Care Unit RN turned Lean Expert, mama of two “spirited” boys Ben (7) and Henry (6), wife of 10 years, and soul calling entrepreneur. During my children’s early years, I was a woman who I didn’t recognize or expect to see being a mom.

The demands and intensity of raising two boys(practically twins), working full time; learning the foreign language of Lean Manufacturing and Excel after only ever speaking anatomy and science; supporting a husband through a career change, managing a household, and an every growing to-do list was more than I could handle.

I always prided myself as being a master juggler, but I didn’t have enough limbs for this level of disruption and responsibility. As a result, my body communicated it’s failure to aqueous in the form of severe anxiety. This didn’t help matters.

Who was I? Where did the strong, playful, lovable, grateful, meditative woman go? I was brought to my knees on a daily basis.

I had no control of my life. I was completely inefficient. All of my habits and inconsistent systems around life were created when I was in complete survival mode.


After struggling with this reality for several years, a light bulb idea went off. What if I applied what I was learning and teaching at work to my home life? After all, Lean is about increasing the value for the customer, employee, and business.

I want more value in my life!

I want more time!

I want more quality time with my kids!

I want to look back on these years with a smile!

I want to be the me I know I am!

Task by task, pain point by pain point, I began applying Lean all over my life and experienced a dramatic transformation. Morning routines were a BIG pain point, hence the creation of:


Introducing the Team

Ben aka The Tornado; he leaves a mess behind wherever he goes

Henry aka Mr. Meltdown; don’t let this cute face fool you, not a day goes by without at least 2 intense meltdowns

Badass Parents (Sarah & Brian)

Lean Tools Applied

Kanban: visual cues and signals used to communicate expectations to multiple people

Mistake Proofing: build in quality at the source of the action

Daily Management: how are we doing at achieving our goals?

Standard Work: the recipe for success; new behaviors for the system to work

External Set Up: what things can be done in advance of the morning to require fewer to-dos

Eliminate Waste: there are 8 wastes that are the culprits for inefficiencies, stress, frustration, and overwhelm; identify and remove

Morning Kanban Board: Kanban is Japanese for a signal. The board communicates the status of each product’s (child’s) status in preparation for release. The boys were very involved with making the board

Kanban Board

Parent Standard Work: Mom and Dad’s recipe for success, includes wake up time, meditation, shower, and dressed for the day.

Breakfast Menu for the Week: posted for all to see

Measures for Success

  1. Leave house by 8:10am

  2. # of meltdowns

  3. # of breakfasts in the car

  4. # of forgotten items

  5. # of reminders

  6. Parents Stress Score 0–10


Day #1

Kids were wildly enthusiastic. Mr. Meltdown ran upstairs within 5 minutes of waking to report that all but 3 tasks were complete and they were all mommy dependent.

Kids were waiting for breakfast fully ready for school. I was the reason we barely made it out by 8:10a due to breakfast taking longer to make, darn bacon.

Opportunities: On bacon mornings, put in the oven before I get in the shower.


  1. Out of house at 810a exactly

  2. 0 meltdowns

  3. 0 breakfast in car

  4. 0 forgotten items

  5. 0 reminders

Parents Stress Score 0–10: 4

Woo hoo!

Click below to read Day 2 and beyond


Jim Pelzel