A little talked about buy powerful aspect of the Toyota Production System is the oobeya – defined in Wikipedia as “great room” or “war room“. Used primarily (but not exclusively) for the year and a half to two year-long product development effort, it is creating a cross functional group that works in a room wallpapered with visual tracking and controls. Wrote Jeff Liker in The Toyota Way, “Toyota has found that the oobeya team system enables fast and accurate decision-making, improves communication, maintains alignment, speeds information gathering, and creates an important sense of team integration.”

The last thing anyone needs is yet another Japanese term in the world of lean so let’s call it by its English term – Value Stream Management.

The-root-of-all-evilThat’s right. Value Stream Management is nothing more than running the business by oobeya. This photo is captured from ATC’s Value – A Way of Doing Business Video. It is a Value Stream management office and what you are looking at are the sales, quoting, engineering, purchasing and production leads all sitting next to each other in a great room papered with visual tracking and controls of each product as it moves through the value stream.

Why does ATC outperform just about everyone? As Jeff Liker put it, because their approach to managing without silos and all of the delay, politicking, email, meetings and computer software most companies are mired in to function their functional silo management approach “enables fast and accurate decision-making, improves communication, maintains alignment, speeds information gathering, and creates an important sense of team integration.” They simply make better decisions faster than anyone else, so they outperform everyone else.

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