The Obeya is the backbone of Lean Continuous Improvement
The Obeya is the backbone of Lean Continuous Improvement
Key Take Aways
- People in your company need to be strongly connected to each other in order to optimize the flow and conversion of materials.
- Communication about customer expectations must be woven into the work process in such a way that everyone knows what a good service looks like, and what to do to achieve it. Good means valuable, in the eyes of the customer.
- Visual management is a powerful way to continuously and systematically break through the status quo, and to keep focus on our customer’s interests.
The Customer rules
Continuous improvement starts with the explicit definition of value as perceived by a customer: the experience that a customer has with your product and service. Determining a value proposition can help you with this. With just a few words, the proposition makes clear what the features and benefits are of your product, or how we would like the customer to gain access to the service. It makes clear how the service is distinctive or unique compared to that of other providers. It clarifies what the price or effort is that the customer needs to pay to obtain your service.
Today’s digital revolution, however, has permanently changed the balance between companies and their customers. More than ever, customers are able to quickly make a comparison between providers, form an opinion about this, and express it to other customers, the organization, and the world.
Can we all hear the Voice of the Customer?
People in your company need to be strongly connected to each other in order to optimize the flow and conversion of materials. They need fast access to each other in order to fulfill customer demand, in the customer’s timeline, in the customer’s desired rhythm. Unfortunately, we still have to build bridges and tear down departmental silos in order to establish powerful connectivity within our own organizations. How do you provide a platform for constructive cooperation with a constant focus on customer interest?
Diagnostics: What does your Process need?
Continuous improvement does start with the customer, but the work process is the objective here. Communication about customer expectations must be woven into this work process in such a way that everyone knows what a good service looks like, and what to do to achieve it. Good means valuable, in the eyes of the customer.
Customer expectations are constantly changing, therefore the work process needs our constant attention. After all, we can always be better, faster, safer, more powerful, more userfriendly, cheaper, more meaningful, more humane, and more green.
Crying out for help
Good work processes lead to good products and services, provided that the correct input and resource variables are put in place. By looking for errors in the work process, and by providing the burden of proof, we prevent people from being blamed for underperforming. It is the work process that allowed human error to be possible; the solution lies in adjusting the work process and not in “adjusting” the people. It is the process that calls for attention. It is the process that is crying out for help.
Cross functional requires cross Communication
Strong visual images need to be present in the Obeya. They unambiguously clarify the status of work in progress, acting as an enormous lever for a better common understanding among involved team members. It enables people to question each other and to interpret the information provided. Face-to-face communication, especially when facilitated from a crossfunctional integration perspective, is essential to gain new knowledge and solve problems. It hands us the opportunity to directly and spontaneously evaluate whether the information provided is adequate, and where additional information needs arise.
Spark new Problem Solving Capabilities in the Obeya
Now we do not always have to sit through each other’s progress updates, since that should be very well available as information on the wall. Instead we can immediately question, help and inspire each other. This is a powerful way to continuously and systematically break through the status quo, and to keep focus on our customer’s interests.
We do this by clarifying the problem, splitting it into logical parts, formulating an objective, think thoroughly about the root causes, designing countermeasures, and then taking action with systematic experiments. We keep on evaluating the results of actions and the work process and make sure that the newly acquired performance standard remains anchored in the organization; in other words, we do this by going through the eight steps to solve problems, following Toyota Business Practices.
The Obeya as the Academy for the Learning Organization
Open communication is a core value for continuous improvement. And one of the most obvious ways where that can happen effectively is in the Obeya. This is the place where people come together, and where facts and intuition form the basis for human cooperation to improve continuously. People from all disciplines in the company should be able to easily connect to the Obeya. People who share the intention to learn how they can solve problems better together are people who continue to develop their talents.
The social side of Strategy
A person does not commit himself to something as elusive as “a result” or “an organization”, although we often say it this way. A commitment is first and foremost a social contract with another person. You commit yourself to someone else, not to some thing. You either acknowledge it is important to mean something to another person or you assume you cannot do the task at hand without the help of the other person.
In the Obeya all these elements come together naturally. It provides a platform for constructive cooperation in which a direct connection is made between the goal of an organization and the individual goals of people as they put their inspiration into their work. All relevant information is readily available. This sparks ideas about improvements that can be discussed with each other, face-to-face, and implemented along the way as teamwork.
Providing an environment people actually need
Having such an Obeya in your company is the most obvious proof you’ve created an environment that teams need, one in which they feel supported in their efforts to continuously improve working conditions that provide value to customers. Such an Obeya radiates confidence that they will get the job done. It doesn’t get any more agile than that. So where is the Obeya in your organization?
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Apparens believes in the Obeya. Every team deserves one. We wish to bring the Obeya to every company out there. Work connected, on the wall. Our solid Obeya Navigation System puts your customer at the center of attention, aligns strategic Objectives and Key Results, and sets teams up for continuous improved performance. You’re back in control. Your team is engaged. Your customers happy. Success is anchored. We know you want this, and encourage you to go for it on your own. That’s why we share much of our insights and research with you. If you need any help with creative thinking and problem solving, just get in touch. We find it both challenging and highly rewarding to make that difference for your team.