Obeya (or Oobeya) is a Japanese word that means ‘big room’, ‘large room’ or ‘war room’. It is form of project management used by many companies to increase productivity. It is also an integral part of Toyota Production Systems, Volvo Group.

It is a lean manufacturing tool, in which a company sets aside a dedicated room where employees or workers can come together to discuss, deliberate and brainstorm on important issues or problems affecting them with a view to solving it. An obeya is a room where employees meet to share and manage information and make efficient decisions to move the company forward.

Obeyas are mainly created to solve a particular problem or work on a specific project. It is when they are used to solve a singular project or undertake a project that they are most effective. An obeya is mainly open to every relevant employee in an organisation.

One of the major companies that has always utilised the Obeya has been Toyota. They made it popular and used it extensively especially in the development of their products, to improve and streamline communication. Toyota is known as one of the first companies to use the Obeya that’s why it’s always associated with them. It is been utilised as an integral project-management tool.

Back in 1993, during the making and launch of it’s first Prius, Toyota put the Obeya into full practice. They carefully gathered all the essential management information for the project in one room called the Obeya. By doing this, every other information or tool that was not part of the project in any way were discarded. The team members focused exclusively on the product with the aim of bringing out the best. Obeya is one of the important elements in Toyota Production Systems.

Since every company possesses it’s own mode of operation and discipline, it’s safe to say that no two companies will employ the same Obeya. Nevertheless, no matter the type of Obeya used by an organisation, there are always similarities to look out for. Some of them are:

The presence of Computers, graphs, charts and drawings in the room to monitor the progress of the project.

Desks and tables for project members.

Any other useful resources or information needed by the team.

In the Obeya, team members can make use of the PDCA because of it’s numerous benefits. It involves :

Planning : Defining a particular problem and developing potential solutions to it.

Doing: This is the stage for implementing the proposed solution.

Checking: Evaluating the results to see whether the proposed solution is actually working or not.

Action: Here, members either return to the planning stage if the results aren’t satisfactory, or improve the solution if the results are expected.

EASY COMMUNICATION : One of the major importance of an obeya is to clamp down on the barriers that prevents employees from collaborating together. And also sharing information to make efficient decisions.

EFFICIENCY: By bringing together all the necessary information, and vital resources needed for a project together in one place, the project’s team can help save time and valuable resources.

FOCUS: Project leaders can easily focus on the issues at hand as long as the key team members are in the same room for discussion.

COLLABORATIVE EFFORTS: An obeya creates an atmosphere where employees can easily work together across disciplines to achieve a common goal.

— Slimane Zouggari