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The perfect Obeya room layout

Updated: Jun 27, 2022

What is the perfect Obeya room layout? To stick with the words of wisdom often used at Toyota, the place of origin for Obeya as it is used today: "it depends".

There are quite a few pictures of what a room should look like, and loads more pictures that show actual rooms that do not actually look like that. So are they all bad? Not necessarily. The important thing in the Obeya room is to find a flow in the information that supports the logic and thinking of the team.

It does not matter whether you practice Lean, Agile or traditional management methods. What matters is that you focus on what the brain needs to quickly interpret the information and come to meaningful actions and decisions in support of adding value for your customers and stakeholders.

Obeya wall: left to right flow

When standing in the Obeya it should be easy to link things together, like strategic objectives to metrics, to planned work and to potential problems. In my practical experience, that leads to a left-to-right flow in lanes that are defined by the strategic objectives.

At Obeya Coaching we've helped many teams get started with Obeya and thusfar all teams have been helped with the simple left to right flow layout as depicted below. Above each area you'll find which part of the 'Leading with Obeya - Reference Framework' it relates to.

In the below layout, you see warning signs under 'deliver value' area. Because of the layout, we now know that those warning signs will affect the metrics in the 'Drive Performance' area and eventually the strategic capabilities under the 'Lead Succesful Strategies' area. As such, whenever a piece of planned work runs into a problem, we are quickly able to grasp the impact of the problem and relate it to the other relevant parts of our Obeya.

Physical Obeya room - It's never the same

I purposely show only a flat wall in the above picture and not a top-down view of a room. Somehow when people think of the 'big room', they believe there are always 4 walls. But in practice, this almost is never the case. Windows, paintings, doors, furniture, etc. get in the way. For that reason it's important to think carefully about the setup that you choose, to optimize the flow of information, also if that information is spread out over several walls, avoiding windows and doors, etc.

If you need to place the areas shown in the picture above into separate physical places, you could consider repeating the strategic capabilities that are at the start of the lane on the left side (under 'Lead Succesful Strategies'). By doing that, for every new area on a new physical wall, you re-introduce the topic it relates to. As such, team members will always know and be able to relate the information with minimal effort.

Introducing the Obeya method? Make sure your walls support your effort!

If you make sure the flow of information is good and the walls look neat and appealing, your team will be able to absorb the information faster with less effort, raising their acceptance of the method of working with Obeya. If it's a big mess with stickies flying everywhere and crooked lines, the brains of your participants will need extra 'system 2' processing power to make sense of what they see. And that's processing power wasted as it will not lead to better decisions or actions by the team.

So how to make it perfect?

Here are a few tips:

  • Ensure logical flow, starting with the purpose & strategic goals for the team

  • Support the visual flow with divider lines so the participants are guided through each area visually

  • Link your metrics to the value you plan to deliver so you can see whether that value leads to something

  • Place your structured problem solving in a position where you can see what problems you're solving (e.g. in relation to what metrics / strategic objective)

  • Make sure the walls look neat, clean, but also show that the wall is being used by people and keep it personal (we do not recommend replacing all handwritten stickies with printed cards)

Feel free to contact us if you want more tips or tricks!


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