Friday, December 5, 2014

An opposing view - why people like big rooms (obeya)

I hate cubicle hell, and I a continuously thankful that I don't work in one of those kewl places where everyone sits at a table. I like to think, and it's hard to think when people are chattering all over the place.

But my view is not the only view, so I figured I'd give equal time to someone who believes that walls hamper productivity.

That "someone" is Jon Miller, who was writing about lean thingies back in 2010. He started by telling the rules that were imposed on him for one project.

Early in my career as a lean consultant the client gave my project team "free rein" to direct a business transformation, with three disclaimers: don't fire any customers, don't discontinue any products, and don't move any walls.

The client was not talking about processes with that third disclaimer - the client was talking about real, physical walls.

When someone defines restrictions - barriers, as it were - it is the natural inclination of some people to challenge those restrictions. And Miller wanted to challenge all of them. In the post, he talked specifically about walls, noting the an obeya (big room) could solve five problems. Here's the second benefit of a big, wall-less room:

Fewer meetings. When walls come down, the need for meetings is reduced. More time can be spent in small but timely bursts of communication. More progress is made on issues within an obeya than within the traditional meeting room due to the information displayed there and the fact that it is a working area for a cross-functional team; they want the meeting over and you out of their space so they can get back to work. Multiply the man-minutes of meetings reduced times the cost and this is another concrete way that removing walls increases profit.

For the other four, see Miller's post.
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