Also referred to as the “Oobeya”, Obeya comes from the Japanese term meaning “big room,” also nicknamed a “war room.” An Obeya is a Lean project management strategy that utilizes physical and visual space and aims to ensure projects are seen through completion.
An Obeya room is a central location (like a conference room) in which managers, leaders, and workers can meet to brainstorm, generate ideas, ask questions, and debate. Obeyas are typically set up with the walls plastered with posters, whiteboards, graphs, and all other relevant information to the project displayed in a clear and logical manner. A project is much more likely to be successful when everyone involved with the project planning process can discuss the project while surrounded by carefully selected information. The Obeya helps to break down barriers, walls, and silos between departments, effectively streamlining the decision-making process.
This process management tool fuels creativity and collaboration between decision-makers on all levels while developing problem-solving skills and can also be used in manufacturing as it is intended to shorten the Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) cycle. A permanent Obeya room can be a central location where plant or facility managers meet regularly, even a few times a day, to review the production process and its successes and shortcomings. On the other hand, a manager can create an Obeya room or an important or lengthy project.
One of the most essential components of a successful Obeya room is choosing what will be visually represented in the room. Obeya rooms rely on visual management to spur collaboration and it is important that only relevant and important information is posted in order to keep the focus. For instance, posting customer complaints will keep managers focused on meeting customer requirements and their satisfaction. Other information that can be used in an Obeya are A3 reports, KPI’s, and the results of previous projects.