Setting up an Obeya
Jesse Allred - firstname.lastname@example.org
Lean manufacturing offers a number of tools and strategies to complete projects, streamline processes, identify wastes, and improve efficiency. One tool that’s often overlooked is the project management concept known as the Obeya room.
Obeya, sometimes spelled Oobeya, is a Japanese term translating to the "big room." These physical rooms utilize visual management and collaboration to ensure projects are seen through completion and in a timely manner. Using posters, charts, and graphs allows everyone who enters the room to quickly understand thought processes, plans, and offers a space for people to review the relevant information easily. An Obeya room is a great area for managers, workers, and planners to get in the zone when working on projects. Obeya rooms foster an environment that will help keep the project on track.
How to Create an Obeya
Before you begin thinking of setting up a room, you will need to clearly establish the goal you are wanting to accomplish with the Obeya; this is your true north. It is important to create one Obeya room for one project, otherwise you will dilute efforts by focusing on too many things at once. Be sure to make the goal specific, measurable, realistic, and time-based. This will lay a strong foundation for the rest of the Obeya process.
After establishing a clear goal, you will want to choose the space to set up the Obeya. Some facilities opt for a permanent Obeya room, but you can also choose to go the temporary route and use an unused space like an empty conference room or office. The size of the room does not matter; what’s important is how you choose to assemble the Obeya. You will want to utilize whiteboards, posters, printouts, graphs, and notecards to articulate important and relevant information that will impact the decisions made throughout the planning and implementing phases of the project.
The next step is to create the team that will be working in the Obeya room. Collaboration is critical to Obeya's effectiveness and opening the room to all relevant managers, employees, and groups will give them a space to work together. The Obeya allows individuals to ask questions, debate opinions, brainstorm ideas and helps break down barriers and silos between departments, ultimately streamlining the decision-making process.
An Obeya room is sometimes referred to as the "war room," and like a traditional war room, Obeya utilizes charts, graphs, and other visual cues to highlight project timing, milestones, schedules, and to keep track of progress made thus far. Throughout the planning and execution process, the Obeya room walls will be filled with posters and whiteboards that are constantly moving and changing. Through the process you will probably find information that is no longer relevant or eliminated ideas along the way, and that's okay! Maintaining the Obeya room consists of sifting through information to display and working to display it in a logical order.
Having a designated and established physical space for individuals to come together and work on a single project can make all the difference. If you or your facility is gearing up for a major process change or a large event, the Obeya will be a space of efficiency and collaboration to ensure the project runs smoothly, is completed on time, and is successful.
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