#45 – The Obeya Room

It seemed like everything was out of control. There was so much going on with so many different people it seemed impossible to keep track of everything. The engineers and production staff in Japan were having the same problem. There was a lack of communication between the two groups, who were all trying to overcome difficult challenges within their own silos.

 

In Japan, they created an “Obeya Room” or “Big Room.” In the Obeya Room, all the engineering groups, production workers, and research departments met and openly shared their challenges and unresolved issues. This idea has spread, and plants and engineering groups at Toyota still have Obeya Rooms today.

 

In the U.S., the Lexus staff started an Obeya Room. It was a conference room where one entire wall was a marker board showing every possible project that was to be completed. Each department was responsible for posting their progress against the projected end date. Weekly update meetings were held there, which enabled everyone to keep track of the progress each department was making as we moved closer and closer to announcement day. 

 

During the summer of 1988, whenever I was in town I always went to the Obeya Room. Everything anyone needed to know was on that wall—everything, that is, except one thing. There was no mention anywhere in the room about the Lexus vs. LexisNexis lawsuit.

 

“Whatever you do, develop good judgment.” Proverbs 4:7 

 

The Toyota General Counsel, Bill Plourde, came into my office with a worried expression across his face. He was very concerned. We had a court date set for early November of 1988, but the judge assigned to our case was 78 years old and was considered one of the worst federal judges in the country.

 

(To be continued in “The Judge”)

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