What is the best Obeya Method?

What is the best Obeya Method?

There is not one method of running an Obeya. However, as long as you develop your Obeya along the lines of the 11 principles, you can rest assured that your Obeya will develop in the right direction. However, throughout the years we have seen a couple of approaches being used quite often. Need to get started first? Find out more on what an Obeya is and how to build an Obeya Room.

Underneath we’ll explain three methods on how to run an Obeya in more detail.

Method 1 - The 'Leading with Obeya Reference Model'

In his book ‘Leading with Obeya’, author Tim Wiegel describes five key responsibilities which represent the fundamental work of a leader. In the Obeya, these responsibilities are visualized.

The ‘Leading with Obeya Reference Model’ is used as a reference for these five visual areas. This relates every key responsibility of a leader to one visual area and related content in the Obeya. The five visual areas are explained below in more detail.

1. LEAD SUCCESFUL STRATEGIES

The starting point for any team, this area describes the purpose and goals of the organization. It lays the foundation for everything we do and defines the outline for everything else in the Obeya.

Example elements: a purpose, strategic capabilities, customer & stakeholder analysis, market analysis.

2. DRIVE PERFORMANCE

Is our organization performing on the desired level so that we are able to achieve our goals? Can we test our business hypotheses? Should we pivot or persevere? What problems must we solve? These are the questions to be answered here.

Example elements: metrics & indicators that help uncover and drive the performance of our organization.

3. DELIVER VALUE

This area displays the activities we are planning, to unfold the delivery of value to our customers. That means we expose our delivery system, make choices on how to best spend our limited capacity and communicate our plans with stakeholders.

Example elements: a roadmap, portfolio funnel, value stream map, product backlog and strategic planning.

4. ACT & RESPOND

We’ve set out a course, but we don’t know what’s coming tomorrow. We need to be able to respond to change quickly and effectively. Teams must be supported and impediments must be resolved effectively. This way we can deal with whatever the future may throw at us.

Example elements: Leadership Action Board, Inbox.

5. SOLVE PROBLEMS

In this area we use a structured problem solving method to make sure we remove the root causes of our organizational problems for good. As such we move from troubleshooting and fighting fires to improving our system sustainably.

Example elements: Toyota Kata storyboards, improvement A3’s, metrics

Obeya PDCA

Method 2 - Plan, Do, Check, Act (PDCA)

The PDCA approach organizes the Obeya room very much like a process, in which activities linked to production cycle stages are grouped together on different parts of the wall/room. Usually the Obeya meeting flow follows the wall setup from left to right, starting with Planning.

PLAN

In this corner of the room you reflect the future direction of the organization and/or your project. What is your purpose? What are your objectives? Who are involved? You may be able to show a clear roadmap. By placing your organization or project in a timeline, your vision becomes clear. Circumstances continuously influence the vision. It is good to periodically update each other and adjust if necessary

DO

What are the teams working on now? In this corner provide an overview of the work in progress. Who is working on what? What problems do you run into? Are there any bottlenecks or blocking issues that need to be resolved? All issues that are discussed and solved here. 

CHECK

To measure is to know. You don’t make good decisions on just your gut feelings. Relevant data is presented in this corner of the room. What you show depends on the subject of the Obeya Room. This can include: feedback from customers / employees, profitability, quality, production figures, lead times, cost ratios, etc. It is important to monitor the relevance, quality and validity of the data. Too much data distracts. Too little data invites opinions instead of facts. Incorrect data damages trust. Decisions are made on the basis of this data. When having a session in the Obeya Room everyone must be able to make immediate decisions.

ACT

In this corner attention is paid to continuous improvement, both in the long term and short term. Often you will find Kata routines present. Are our improvements paying off? This part of the Obeya provides a picture of the learning capacity of the teams and the organization. 

Method 3 - The Six Panels approach

Like the PDCA setup, the Six Panels approach uses different area’s of the Obeya for different purposes

1. VISION

Here you would hope to find the answer to questions like: “Where do we want to be in 5 years time”, “What problems do we want to solve? and What do we need to change if we want to be more competitive?” A compelling narrative, completed with numbers that provide direction for the intermediate horizon (3-5 years)

2. CUSTOMER

This approach has dedicated space to cutomer oriented information. You might find Customer Journeys, numbers on complaints and/or NPS data, market saturation in customer segments, all that is important for sustainable decision making.

3. PRODUCT

In a flow that makes sense, moving from left to right in your room; after we’ve seen what our customers think we would expect some information on our products and product development. Mind you; these are not production numbers. The efficiency and effectiveness of your production itself is discussed looking at the Performance numbers.

4. PLAN

In the planning area of the Obeya can be set up looking at two preconditions: 1) the workfloor recognizes the work they are doing on a daily basis and 2) The work is visually related to the strategic importance of its output.

5. PERFORMANCE

At the Performance panel we look at the ‘engine’ of the company. In numbers. Presenting numbers effectively is an artform in itself and should not be underestimated. Consistent use of colours (i.e. red for ‘bad’, green for ‘good’) is usually a first step in the right direction. Many organizations decide to keep their number representation balanced, by making sure they have an overview on 1) quality 2) efficiency and 3) employee satisfaction. 

6. IMPROVEMENT

All Obeya’s have space dedicated to improvements. Mostly incremental improvements, making it of importance to have a rhythm running through your organization that allows tackling small problems step by step or by conducting experiments. Often you would find kata routines being execyted and managed from this area.

Continuously improve your Obeya Method

Operational teams often use methods like Scrum that help them inspect & adapt by means of visualization. Both Lean and Agile use iterative processes that allow incremental improvements in small steps.

Using iterative rhythms in your Obeya helps address challenges with similar potential effectiveness as Scrum methods, but potentially benefitting all levels of an organization. Managing work in short cycles effectively helps strategy execution as it allows different organizational levels to connect and communicate with each other.

Increase tranparency using Obeya

Obeya is not “in addition to” but “instead of” most other management means. Compared to more traditional management styles it might feel less in control in the beginning. Trust the process. Stop your line-by-line project management reviews, your PowerPoint decks and ad-hoc meetings. The sooner you fully commit to Obeya, the more benefits you are likely to see. If you are struggling and looking for guidance, run through the 11 principles and you’ll find answers for improvement. 

If you have a question, concern or decision to make, raise it using the walls of your Obeya. If you find the information content insufficient and wish for your former reviews and reports, then improve your Obeya content and process until it allows you to have the necessary discussions fuelled by relevant information.

An Obeya should benefit both the workfloor and the leadership supporting the workfloor. Therefore, an Obeya needs transparency. Transparency of direction, transparency of progress, and transparency of outcomes. We cannot achieve transparency if leadership and team members work off different sources of information.

Teams need insights into progress on their strategies, into what the other teams are doing or deciding, and into complexities and interconnections. This we all can make sure to benefit one another instead of working against each other or becoming island or silo’s.

We do understand there is such a thing as sensitive information. And it is probably wise to discuss this matter when you start out using Obeya. We haven’t encountered a situation yet where there was so much confidentiality required that the people doing the work were not allowed to gain insights into their own work progress and the relation to purpose and strategy. Yet also from experience, we know this is a topic; so please discuss it instead of hiding it.

Ultimately, transparency is both a precondition as well as an outcome of setting up a well working Obeya.

Come on then, black belt sensei

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