The Power of a Team Coach in the Obeya

In this article, we explore the complementary relationship between Leading with Obeya (LWO) and team coaching, and how they can jointly contribute to the development of strong, effective management teams. The combination of the LWO method and the deployment of a team coach offers a unique opportunity to not only improve the structure and processes within teams, but also to address underlying behavioral and communication patterns.

The Essence of Leading with Obeya

Leading with Obeya is a method that transforms management teams by integrating strategy, operations, and progress into a single visual platform. It makes complex information accessible and understandable, leading to better decision-making and more effective leadership.

Contrary to what many people think when they first see an Obeya, the team is central to this transformation. The walls are a reflection of their thoughts about their strategic goals, the work, and related issues. This makes problems visible and sets the path for continuous improvement.

However, setting up an Obeya is not the end, but rather the beginning of a journey. When the work and challenges of the team become clearly visible, their collaboration also changes. Transparency creates a need for a safe environment where constructive feedback and keeping commitments are paramount.

Traditional vs. Obeya Leadership

Transparency, making problems visible, is not something everyone is used to. Especially not when a team works in a predominantly traditional management environment. The transition from traditional to Obeya leadership brings a noticeable shift in leadership approach and focus:

  • Short-Term Focus vs. Long-Term Vision: Traditional leadership focuses on achieving short-term objectives and responding immediately to problems, while Obeya leadership emphasizes sustainable improvements that contribute to long-term goals.
  • Providing Solutions vs. Coaching in Problem Solving: In a traditional setting, leaders tend to offer solutions themselves. Obeya leadership, on the other hand, coaches teams to find solutions themselves, which strengthens the problem-solving capabilities within the team.
  • Reactive vs. Proactive: Traditional leadership is often characterized by a reactive, firefighting approach. Obeya leadership encourages a proactive approach, spending time understanding the root causes of problems before discussing solutions.
  • Data-Driven vs. Shop Floor-Oriented: In traditional leadership, decisions are often made based on high-level data, with decisions based on assumptions and summaries. This can lead to a distorted view of reality. In the context of Obeya, the emphasis is on basing decisions on what is really happening, often found on the shop floor. As a result, decisions are more informed and accurate, as they are based on direct observations and factual information from practice.
  • Celebrating ‘Firefighting’ vs. Rewarding Sustainable Improvements: In the traditional approach, firefighting is often celebrated, while in an Obeya context, the team is rewarded for realizing improvements that sustainably improve the system as a whole.

These elements highlight how Obeya leadership shifts from a reactive, solution-focused approach to a more development-oriented, collective problem-solving culture. These principles are extensively described in ‘Leading with Obeya’ and form the core of an effective transformation in management styles.

The Role of Team Coaching

While Obeya leadership provides a powerful framework, the additional deployment of team coaching can help deepen and anchor the transformation. A summary like the one above sounds logical and many people will agree that there are benefits to the leadership style we try to pursue in an Obeya. However, reality is more stubborn and people’s behavior (including our own) does not change overnight.

So if you are standing in your Obeya and feel that there is still some gain to be made in the area of behavior of yourself and your colleagues, then a team coach can provide a solution. A team coach approaches team development with a holistic vision, focused on strengthening both individual and collective skills. The approach of a team coach can be described as follows:

  • Building Trust: The basis for any successful team is trust. A team coach helps create an environment where team members feel comfortable being vulnerable, sharing their weaknesses and mistakes, and being open to feedback. This is achieved through open communication and promoting mutual understanding.
  • Navigating Conflicts: A team coach teaches a team to deal constructively with conflicts. Instead of avoiding or suppressing conflicts, they are seen as opportunities for growth and understanding. The team coach facilitates discussions that lead to joint solutions and better collaboration.
  • Promoting Engagement: By involving all team members in decision-making processes, a team coach ensures that everyone feels heard and valued. This increases engagement and ownership of decisions within the team.
  • Encouraging Accountability: The team coach encourages team members to take responsibility for their actions and contribute to the team’s goals. This includes setting clear goals, expectations, and regularly discussing progress.
  • Focus on Results: Ultimately, the team coach focuses on achieving concrete results. By helping the team define their goals clearly and monitor their progress, the team coach ensures that the team collectively commits to achieving these goals.

This approach aims to make a team not only more effective in their current projects but also to promote their long-term development as a cohesive unit. A team coach works closely with the team to develop and strengthen these skills, which is crucial for the team’s success in both current and future challenges.


Implementing Leading with Obeya offers numerous benefits for management teams looking to function more effectively. Team coaching plays a valuable role in the journey that follows implementation, especially when the team finds that there is still some gain to be made in the area of behavior. Through the visibility and transparency provided by Obeya, team coaches can work more targeted on improving team dynamics and strengthening leadership skills within the framework of the methodology.

For management teams striving for more effective collaboration and noticing that there is still room for improvement, the combination of Leading with Obeya and team coaching is a powerful step forward. Where the LWO method provides a structured and visual approach, a team coach also offers the possibility to further develop as a team on a behavioral level.