Obeya – The Lean War Room

What is an Obeya?

An Obeya room is a major component of Lean manufacturing and Lean-thinking strategies. Originally stemming from the Toyota Production System (TPS), “Obeya” is a Japanese term meaning big room and is often nicknamed the “war room”. The Obeya is a physical space to establish goals, generate ideas, and collaborate will managers. Setting up an Obeya is meant to speed up communication and the decision-making process. This process will help to keep management and team members on track, while facilitating communication and collaboration.

Be specific

The first step is to identify a goal, or a “true north”. This goal should be specific, and can be a problem to solve, an event to plan, a large project, etc. The Obeya room, and the way it is designed, is to aide you in focusing on your goals and finding direct paths to achieve that goal. Set definitive deadlines and only focus on one project at a time in the Obeya. Once that goal is posted in the room, it makes it easier to find direct paths to achieve that goal.

Be organized

To ensure that everyone is on the same page and simplify the decision-making process, it is important to keep the room organized. Comb through information and only post what is relevant; the goal of this project management tool is stay razor-focused, and irrelevant information is likely to leave people confused and unfocused.

Be visual

Visual communication is key to setting up an effective Obeya. Use whiteboards, posters, printouts, charts and graphs to clearly display relevant information; you could set up a specific area to post ideas or a specific area to hang up feedback. Arrange the wall hangings to follow a logical process, so even someone not involved in the process could walk in and easily understand what is going on.

Setting up an effective Obeya room will help to keep you on track when carrying out Lean strategies, or any other tasks in the workplace. By having an actual physical space to discuss and generate ideas, communication opens up, creativity will flow, and goals will become clearer.

Develop teamwork and keep the management team focused on the specific goals

Improve information exchange using visual cues and indicators allowing better problem solving and performance.

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