Where it comes from

Obeya ​means 'room' in Japanese. It's a way of working for management first used by Toyota in Japan. 

By visualizing the production- and leadershipsystem with everybody involved and creating one version of the truth, it's simply a lot easier to work effectively towards your organizational goals. 

Toyota first used Obeya when building the first Prius in 1993. A car which has become the first and most successful consumer hybrid car ever. 


Building this car was a strategic move that fit Toyota's vision for a better environment. Toyota, once an underdog in the car industry, became the worlds largest automotive producer in the world in 2008 when it beat the historic leader, General Motors. 

How does it work

An Obeya is a physical area where there is a visual link between strategy and operations. By visualizing the leadership system, a common view is created on where the team is, where they want to be and what must be done to get there. 

Through a rhythm and routine, the team discusses the right things at the right time in the best known way possible. As such, meetings in the Obeya are supported by visuals and are short, effective and results oriented, instead of long, dusty and sometimes boring traditional meetings. 

Effectively, using Obeya supports our cognitive abilities and helps tackle complexity. If used well, we have more processing power available in our brains to make better decisions. 

Read more in this interview with Time Wiegel in Discover Benelux magazine

Is this for you?

Faster time to market? Happier customers? Do more with less? These are typical challenges to be exposed and improved upon in the Obeya. 

Using Obeya for leadership teams is particularly useful for:

  • Middle- or senior management (CxO level)

  • Start-ups

  • Product Owners over multiple teams, Tribe leads, Product Area Leads, Business Owners, Portfolio Managers, Epic Owners, Programme Managers

  • Leadership teams that are involved in a transformation (Agile, Lean, DevOps, etc) and are looking to achieve real business results

Obeya complements scaling methods like LeSS en SAFe. 

What do you expect to find in an Obeya for leadership teams?

Leading With Obeya - Reference Framework

In the top are the 5 key responsibilities for leadership, divided over visual areas one would expect to find on the walls in the Obeya:

1. Strategy- Leading succesful strategies to achieve the organization's goals

2. Value - Delivering valuable products or services that suit the needs of customers and stakeholders

3. Performance - Maximizing organizational performance so the value can be delivered up to quality expectations

4. Responsiveness - Act & respond to changes and problems that arise every day on our path to glory

5. Problems - Structured problem solving that impedes our performance, getting better bit by bit

At the bottom of the framework are the behavioural principles one would expect to see with the leadership team when they are having their meetings in the Obeya. The rhythm & routine plays an essential part as the key to unlocking behaviour that supports the achievement of your strategic goals. 

The Reference Model is setup to be used as a coaching model, identifying potential problems in the leadership system.


Read more at LeadingWithObeya.com