The concept of “Big Room”, also known by the Japanese word “Obeya” is linked with the concept of co-location, which in Toyota refers to the practice of locating multidisciplinary teams in the same place to improve communication and creativity in the process of automotive design. In the construction industry, the “Big Room” facilitates the implementation of Last Planner® System (LPS) and Collaborative Planning, as well as the Integrated Project Delivery System (IPD). Under the background of LPS, the Big Room can be defined as the place where collaborative planning meetings are held: milestones plan, Pull Sessions, weekly meetings and daily stand up meetings. In this post we will focus on its benefits in LPS.
The Big Room helps to encourage people to collaborate. From the point of view of many companies, investing in the Big Room for the collaborative planning sessions is a waste of time. But the key question here should be: how many hours do you save for each hour invested in collaborative planning? In the background of project management, where so many people and companies are involved, the traditional role of the planner focused on planning and managing the production alone in the office is obsolete.The Big Room helps to hold the collaborative planning meetings; contributes to understanding constraints and reducing waste and rework. As a result, it enables continuous flow and improves productivity.
The use of the Big Room improves the communication of the key information, allows all team members to have access to updated information, plans or designs, and promotes transparency among the different subcontractors. This contributes to avoid a lot of rework and waste of time.
The Big Room provides a location for the visual management panels which show the planning and other key performance indicators of the project, encourages continuous improvement, provides shorter learning curves and a higher awareness towards problems.
Temporary routines performed in the Big Room during the LPS sessions contribute to a collaborative environment among the subcontractors and other project team members, improve the accuracy of communication and avoid misunderstandings through direct discussion and instant feedback. In addition, this visual communication provides everyone in the team the same picture of the project.
3. HIGH QUALITY INTERACTIONS
By planning together in the same room, people from many different disciplines and companies are able to get high quality interactions. They come to understand who is responsible for what, exchange information with the right people and know who to ask questions for proper answers. The frequency and quality of interactions increases drastically, and problems can be identified and resolved faster and more effectively.
These interactions also allow the team members to see their relationship from the point of view of the “client-supplier”. When they look for information or work, they are the client. In contrast, when they are asked to produce information or work in progress for other ones, they are the supplier. By seeing the relationship in this way, team members can understand that when they act as a client, they are expected to clearly express their needs and expectations. On the contrary, when they are in the role of a supplier, team members understand that they have to know their client needs. Understanding this way of thinking is one of the keys to understand the Lean philosophy.
4. DECISION MAKING
The appropriate decision makers are usually present at the collaborative planning meetings performed in the Big Room. A consequence of this is that collaboration, communication and interactions reduce the time of decision making, contribute to obtain better decisions and increase creativity, promote the use of talent and helps to break paradigms as well as understanding the positive consequences analyzing different ways of thinking in the process of making decisions.
The collaborative planning in the Big room, also contributes to support a common understanding of the values, objectives and status of the project and strengthen relationships among all the team members, encourages collaboration, promotes teamwork and increases morale.
Regarding the use of technology, in construction companies where LPS implementation has a high level of maturity, it can help to simplify and shorten the duration of LPS meetings and increase productivity. However, virtual tools work better after having had a face to face collaboration and should be chosen depending on the type of interaction required in each case, but not as a substitute of the face to face debate. We must consider this fact, especially if one needs to gear the talent of the whole team and achieve creative results. In summary, virtual tools by itself don’t substitute the emotional power of handy writing the commitments in the tags and putting them in the visual panels at the Pull Session.
Conclusions and next posts
In this post we have seen the benefits of using the concept of the Big Room to hold the collaborative planning meetings when implementing LPS. However, the concept of Big Room linked to collaborating planning and visual management consists of a lot of topics, which will be addressed in the second part of this post.
Finally, we have included some references that inspired the author together with his own experience leading collaborative planning sessions.
Fischer, Martin; Ashcraft, Howard; Reed, Dean; Khanzode, Atul (2017). Integrating Project Delivery. Wiley.
Greif, Michel (1991). “The Visual Factory: Building participation through shared information”. Productivity Press.
Ohno, Taiichi (1988). “Toyota Production System: beyond large-scale production”. Cambridge, Productivity Press.
Umstot, David; Fauchier, Dan (2017). Lean Project Delivery | Building Championship Project Teams. Armchair ePublishing.