Obeya & SQCDP – a productivity solution for a post-COVID World

By Published On: May 25, 2021

Obeya is all about performance.
SQCDP is a no-nonsense performance methodology originating from the production industry that is being put in a new light – and for good reason.

Roy McFarlane from Total Production Solutions skillfully takes you on a tour of no-nonsense performance in the Obeya. Clear examples are combined with years of experience – making the video very insightful.

Obeya & SQCDP – a productivity solution for a post-covid world

Since March 2020 the World of work changed in almost every region and country. In an instant the office environment as we knew it reverted 400 years.

Before the East India Company formalised its centre of control in East India House London, working from home was the norm. Bankers, tradespeople, service providers and salespeople all worked out of their own home. Yes, their work was on behalf of their boss (the business owner) and quite often they would move between houses to collaborate. The mental image of “the office” that we all share, came about as a mechanism for managing complex logistics and the bureaucratic process of bringing goods from India to London and European port cities.

The next transformation was in manufacturing, where industrialists were increasingly concerned about the cost of errors. This brought about “the meeting”; a mechanism to appraise and share information that enabled factory managers to make quick adjustments to ensure the consistent good quality of their products.

“Like all simple concepts; the Obeya has been the victim of many attempts to over-complicate, but it is mainly applied common sense.”

Toyota Corporation’s focus on quality and visualisation of performance brought about the Obeya. It means Large Room and was deployed as a low cost and simple method for systemising the hosting of relevant important information in a convenient place.

Although the Obeya concept originated to improve the product development process, it was quickly adopted by production managers to make meetings more effective and to make critical daily productivity decisions quickly.

Like all simple concepts; the Obeya has been the victim of many attempts to over-complicate, but it is mainly applied common sense.

The rapid devolution from centralised office work to dispersed home working, along with the added complication of each home worker essentially being on a different personal time-zone, has brought about an urgent need to reduce complexity.

Manufacturing team corridor spot

Obeya as a productivity solution for a post-covid world

At the beginning of the Global lockdown the most common business concern was that managing according to classical understanding was no longer possible. Performance visibility and quick (informal) communication had instantly become more difficult. Similarly, businesses feared a loss of collaboration and the team ethos, something that the majority of good businesses had invested in over many years and which employees had come to expect.

Now as we re-emerge from into the post-COVID era, business leaders and managers are faced with three new prospects:

  1. Employees have had a taste of remote working and don’t want to return entirely to how things were,
  2. Lean operations have been proven to be very vulnerable to sudden market changes (like customer behaviour and supply chain pressure) and
  3. Business resilience was previously largely overlooked in Corporate planning and has now shifted to the top of every proactive organisation’s priority list.

What business leaders need urgently is a simple and effective way to enable performance transparency, standardise team behaviour and enable their organisation to flex quickly with changes.

The Obeya is a tried and tested tool for achieving these three primary concerns.
Whilst Obeya means large room, it doesn’t mean that that a physical large room is required.

“Over-communication has become more of a problem than a solution.
So, what is the solution (I hear you ask)?”

What makes an effective Obeya?

An effective obeya has five essential pillars:

  1. Formalise data collection
  2. Centralise information
  3. Visualise critical data categories
  4. Encourage interaction
  5. Reduce wasted movement

In the past year or so we have all become used to our daily interaction on a virtual platform of some description and have all suffered “zoom fatigue”. Our computer screen has become the largest room around, but we have also learned that the virtual space needs to be controlled and doesn’t work well when using the same rules as in-person meetings.

Over-communication has become more of a problem than a solution.
So, what is the solution (I hear you ask)?

Example Obeya

How to use SQCPD Performance Management in Obeya

With almost effortless adaptation of existing technology, managers and executives can turn their virtual meeting platform into a functioning obeya.
The beauty of this Toyota concept is it works for pretty much every situation. This takes much of the thinking away from creating a solution and diverts this energy to making it work?

Here are the categories:

  • Safety
  • Quality
  • Cost
  • Delivery (Service)
  • Productivity (People

Every organisation, team and sub-team has these constraints and all businesses regard monitoring these regularly as good practice.

Whether it’s a corporate new venture, fast paced project, highly variable healthcare delivery, routine production environment, office or call centre; these categories are a constant.

SQCDP Example Board

Safety – accidents and near misses, or business risks and legislation requirements. What do you need to address to improve safety or project viability?
Quality – what errors are affecting good quality or what are your customer’s expectations that link them to your brand?
Cost – what is affecting your market competitiveness, or margin. How can your team contribute to the bottom line?
Delivery – Did you do what you intended, by when your customer expected?
Productivity – Is everyone contributing and are there any task or personnel changes that need to be accommodated ahead of time?

Example SQCDP Performance Wall (source: www.agilewalls.com)

Rules for an effective Obeya

1. Define your organisational categories and make them permanent
• SQCDP is a good starting point
But; QCD should be the minimum

2. Establish your space
• A physical room or location
Standardize information flow (left to right), the last point being the critical take away for the team
• On line (i.e. Teams Whiteboard)

If you choose a hybrid format, standardise the format.
The physical space should support on-line and on-line should follow the flow of the physical space.

Hybrid Obeya Example

3. Keep it Fresh – Keep it Relevant- Make a difference
• The Obeya is not for static or outdated information. It is not a notice board!
• Clarity avoids confusion. Less is more
• Display topics that matter to your team, and gets them engaged
• Standardise your trends – UP is good DOWN is bad

4. Localise
• The obeya should be local to the work and be understandable at a glance
Other benefits
• It should be a reason for senior management to visit work teams
• It should highlight how the team are addressing problems
• It should encourage interaction with stakeholders outside of the team as well as the team itself
• It should show how the team’s effort is contributing to the big objectives

Call centre team spot example

5. It doesn’t have to be pretty – It must help the team do their work better
• Pain through the pen – make the data personal, encourage interaction
• Stickers and coloured pens are just fine
• Use terms the team knows and uses everyday

6. Don’t forget your motivational slogan
• Identify the reason for monitoring your performance data. Collecting data is not easy or exciting, so make it worthwhile doing.

For example:
“Wastage costs jobs” or;
“Errors today affect deliveries tomorrow”

So, why not make a start with your very own Obeya? Remember to start with what is important and switch data to a new focus when the priority item is under control.

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