What does Obeya stand for?

What does Obeya stand for?

Obeya means “big room” in Japanese. In fact, it is a powerful tool to help organizations collaborate more effectively and efficiently, resulting in better goal achievement. But what does Obeya stand for and how does such a big room add value to your team or company? Read on to discover more.


Big room, war room, adrenaline room

Waar staat Obeya voor - What does Obeya stand for - The room

An Obeya is a large room, also known as a big room, war room, or adrenaline room. These terms mainly refer to the effect that is created within the Obeya. It is the room where leaders and teams are hyped up (figuratively speaking) with adrenaline, to – then go into battle –  ready to achieve the desired goals and grow the organization.

However, we try to avoid using the term war room because it implies conflict, while the methodology strives for the opposite: continuous improvement and teamwork based on equality and open communication.

The Obeya was originally conceived in Japan as an “arena for discussions with disciplinary leaders.” All documents and data were made available and visible to all leaders in the organization (Aasland, Knut & Blankenburg, Detlef. 2012). The effectiveness of this tool was demonstrated at Toyota. But more on that another time.


Why an Obeya: The brain of the system.

Waar staat Obeya voor - What does Obeya stand for - The results

For now, we would like to tell you more about that adrenaline room and its usefulness. It forms the brain of the system. Of the organization. In the Obeya, many different people and roles come together because they want to contribute to a greater (organizational) goal. But that’s not all. The goal is also to connect all those roles and ensure that they understand each other.

All involved persons therefore gather in that big room to work more efficiently together. This allows projects to flow more smoothly and offer better insight into everyone’s contribution within the process. As a result, an Obeya also symbolizes a positive team spirit, product development, managing strategies, and creating a pleasant workflow.

It helps people collaborate without getting distracted, but within a pleasant atmosphere to develop new ideas. This concept is supported by attractive graphs and other visuals to, among other things, show progress and milestones to everyone who has a stake in it.


How does an Obeya work: 11 Obeya principles

An Obeya is based on 11 different principles. These form its characteristics and are intended to develop and use an Obeya effectively. This creates a clear language that everyone speaks and by which the organization achieves its goals.

The 11 principles are divided into 4 groups and are as follows.


1. People come together to learn and apply that knowledge in practice.
2. People want to work together to improve and solve problems that come their way.


3. People communicate with each other and work together to achieve goals.
4. Meaningful goals lead to a recognizable, larger goal for the organization.
5. Customer experience is central to linking strategy to execution.
6. Obeya meetings run in rhythm with the operational heartbeat.


7. Conversations proceed logically and practically, thanks to support from visuals.
8. The workflow is clear for everyone: from start to finish.
9. The Obeya is located in an accessible space, preferably near the “shop floor.”


10. Proof based on analysis is used to make decisions.
11. Those who present information do so in an understandable, current, and visually appealing way.


What do these Obeya principles lead to?

Waar staat Obeya voor - What does Obeya stand for - Good results

The principles above help to answer the following questions within the organization:

  • Are we connected with each other?
  • Are we all working towards the same goals or a larger, common goal?
  • Are deadlines being met?
  • Are decisions made received by everyone in the organization?
  • Do we have the right information in mind?
  • What are the problems we want to solve?
  • Are we involving the right people in achieving each goal or solving a problem?

Do you want to know more about the Obeya? Read more on why we think: “Obeya is the one true (senior) management solution to the question ‘how do we deal with all these teams and their visual management and use that execution power to achieve our organisations strategic goals”. Sign up for our newsletter and receive regular updates and new articles in your email.