What information is made visible in the Obeya?

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    What information is made visible in the Obeya?

    Key Take Aways

    • We need information that helps us navigate, and information that helps us continuously improve. A set of eight generic quality criteria validate a good informational structure
    • Measuring what matters starts with answering the question: “What is most important to us in the next three (six, twelve) months?” With three to five top-line objectives, an entire organization can be set in motion with the use of Objectives and Key results.

    Assess your Obeya and take it to the next level

    There is no general rule for the informational structure of an Obeya. It is entirely dependent on the industry in which an organization operates, its objectives and strategy or the choice of scope. However, based on the stories of many companies and practical experiences, a fundamental design can be derived that gives anyone a good starting position. A set of eight generic quality criteria validate a good informational structure.

    Information that helps us navigate:

    • Provides orientation to the customer;
    • Shows the value chains within our sphere of influence;
    • Connects strategic objectives with work in progress;
    • Indicates the current performance level;

    Information that helps us to continuously improve:

    • Identifies the work processes with improved potential;
    • Gives insight into problems and chosen solutions;
    • Shows who takes ownership for which action;
    • Makes the progress of activities clear.


    Know where we are today and where we go tomorrow

    To navigate, we want to know where we are today and where we are going tomorrow. In order to continuously improve, we want to see where the problem areas are located in our work process, what we will do about it, and who will take ownership of the actions.

    The information on the wall in the Obeya can be read as a story, from left to right. In the story you recognize the “Plan, Do, Check, Act” cycle. But be aware, the story is only a very limited and concise version of reality. The information on the wall emphasizes what we find important and makes an attempt to express this in measured values. If we do not have everything in view, we cannot measure everything in a meaningful way.


    To define Reality

    The objective of the Obeya is to see reality better with the confidence that we can continuously improve together. So it’s okay when some of our dashboards turn up red. If we choose what we want to make visible in the Obeya, then we clearly find that more important than what we choose to leave out of sight.

    As a result, we directly influence the system that we measure. A Hawthorne effect is created. In all these situations, the person who measures influences the entire system precisely because he measures. We need to use common sense and be skeptical when applying the scientific method in a social context. As a rule of thumb, we should not just trust all numbers. We always want to know what the context is and we wonder what that could mean for our performance.


    Fingers point at the wall, not at each other

    Moreover, the measurements are not intended to judge or blame, but they aim to improve, as objectively as possible, to help us work together in the right direction. Measurements, represented as just a number or graph, can also feel a bit cold because they naturally leave their context completely out of consideration. On the contrary, they exist as an indicator for something bigger, but that larger part is of course not present in the report.

    We measure to know, or at least to reduce our uncertainty. We measure the conditions of our system. We then improve the system. You also cannot avoid the fact that your measurement system moves with you as your team evolves, your system improves, customer behavior changes and market conditions change. There is simply no clear mix of measurements that is always applicable in all cases that contributes to the optimization of the whole value chain.

    Stay ahead with the Obeya Navigation System

    The Obeya Canvas provides structure

    A useful informational structure, however, shows the value chains that belong to our established scope, the one we use in our Obeya. Consider the route that a customer request follows before it is answered by the delivery of our IT product or service. You could visualize it as the abstract map of a subway system in a large city that helps you travel from East to West. There are different routes for the different types of customer requests that sometimes overlap. There is a route for the request for advice, a route for the desire for new IT functionality, a route to get assurance that existing IT Services are working properly, and there is probably a special route that is covered in the event of disruptions or calamities.

    With this static route map we make clear how work flows through our system under normal conditions. We depict the normal steps in the work process, the RUN organization, in their usual order with the most important Flow units of each process. It starts with the customer and ends with the customer and thus becomes a closed feedback loop. This is the system that we have in scope before our improvements are made.


    Validate your efforts and welcome feedback

    When an outsider visits the Obeya, it becomes clear at a glance who the customer is, what the value proposition is and how it is normally delivered. The Obeya is just a space where we can learn from each other. So open the door for others about your work process and show how your team operates.

    We’ve now reached a point where we can state: For this customer of this system we have devised a strategy on how we think we can generate the best value so that it results in a winwin for all stakeholders involved. Next up, how do we make clear what needs to happen in the coming months and what is really important to us?


    Objectives & Key Results in the Obeya

    Growing in popularity is the framework known as OKR, short for Objectives Key Results. The way in which it is described is: “We Will achieve a certain Objective (…), as measured by the following Key Results (…)”. In “Measure what Matters”, John Doerr describes in great detail what it takes to implement the OKR framework and why you should definitely consider using it.

    The framework ensures that strategy is well connected with the work that people do in an organization. It creates focus, transparency and engagement. The Objective states what must be achieved. It makes clear what we think is (most) important. Measuring what matters starts with answering the question: “What is most important to us in the next three (six, twelve) months? With three to five top-line objectives, an entire organization can be set in motion in this way.


    Clarity on what truly matters

    At any given moment, today, a certain percentage of your employees are not working on the right things, usually not even intentionally. That’s because right now we don’t use a good system for strategic connection. The information is not readily available in everyone’s own timeline and the process for connection or evaluation is insufficiently designed. The result?

    Managers continue to wonder what everyone else is doing all day long, and employees wonder if they are actually working on things that are really important to the company. But with OKRs, because of their transparency, it is not only clear what is important, but cooperation between individuals, teams and departments becomes necessary, even if it is just to coordinate duplications or gaps in opportunities. Connected organizations are fast organizations. People cannot commit themselves to something that they cannot see. So make sure new networks of cross-functional relationships between people can flourish, and tear down those departmental silos.

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