Obeya tells the story of it all

Have you ever asked yourself “why am I wasting my time in this meeting” while painfully realizing it is only the first one of the day?

Wouldn’t it be nice to bring back added value and true decision making in meetings while freeing time to work on the advancement of projects or businesses?

How many times have I worked with managers of all levels to find out that their days are filled with meetings and reporting duties distancing them from the people actually making the projects who truly need daily support? The answer is: yes! In every single project! On the other hand, it is easy to lose ground and get trapped in the organisational burden of companies especially when they are large but with some discipline and leadership, situations can improve drastically.

Let’s put aside the French tendency to always complain about everything and look at what can be done to ease communication, visibility and entangle blocking points.

The Obeya

Lean provides the courageous ones with a powerful tool to face daunting situations: the OBEYA. It is a 7 panel huis clos guiding you in the delivery of a project. Rarely used at the beginning of a project because nobody has time for that, the Obeya is called upon when delays are going wild, costs are surging and customers complaining.

The purpose of an Obeya is to gather, in a centralized place, be it a real or a digital room, all the needed information to ensure the success of a project. Like in a Swiss knife, every panel of the Obeya has a purpose and seeks to unlock difficulties.

One can compare the setting up of an Obeya to an introspective journey in the very depth of a project. This visual management tool is a structured question-generating-machine to clarify and understand various matters ranging from the vision and the customer to planning and problem solving without forgetting the cornerstone of any project: the product or service to be delivered and its representation.

Why does the Obeya work?

The construction of an Obeya is a collective action. The main project actors (aka the core team) decide together, based on the customer needs, the goal of the project and its measurable success criteria. The rest is a visual representation in details of what must be delivered and the steps towards the expected target.

Once the Obeya is up and consensus on what to achieve has been reached, it becomes once a week the agora for the core team where project advancement is discussed based upon facts (KPIs) and decisions are taken to fight the odds and refuse as much as possible any delays. By questioning what happens on the field with reference to the vision and customer panels, the team thrives on finding solutions to secure the project’s milestones.

The Obeya enables project transparency as everybody involved is aligned on the success and works as a team, but it requires to be updated frequently to serve its role as a watch tower.

The Obeya, in itself, is not a guarantee for success. As any tool used in lean, it is a mean to raise and tackle the important questions with a constant focus on delivering added value against clear targets. The Obeya serves the people by bringing them together to engage in a deep and meaningful dialogue about how to solve daily obstacles for the success of a project.

Think about it: could any of your projects benefit from an Obeya?

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