You can’t make the right decisions from the meeting room. You have to go, watch, and learn. This is the beginning of what is called a Gemba Walk.
“Don’t look with your eyes, look with your feet” – Taiichi Ohno
When Steve Blank was developing some of the core concepts of design thinking, he continually said get out of the building and go and learn from real customers. And the same goes for Lean.
In Lean, we talk about “going to the Gemba” or Gemba Walks. The Gemba means the “place where value is created”. The idea is simple; if you want to improve your business, you need to learn more about your processes, your people, your customers, you need to go and see for yourself.
Managers and business leaders today are often so separated from the actual work by corporate structures. They have not seen the process. They have not spoken to any customers. And they don’t even talk to the people who do the work daily.
When you make decisions at arm’s length – there is no real understanding of what is happening. Often this causes customers and employees more pain. If you want to make a difference, go and see for yourself and learn what your employees need you to do to make customers happier.
The Gemba is also the place you go just not to learn but also to lead others. It is where you train your people, invest in colleagues learnings and spend time engaging directly with your customers.
To supplement the idea of Gemba, Toyota adds the related “genchi gembustsu” to emphasise the literal meaning of the “real thing” as well as the real place. Chairman Fujio Cho says that lean leaders do three things” “Go see, ask why, show respect”.
A call to action. Everyone, from CEO downwards, has the responsibility to spend time on the shop floor watching how to produce the product or service. You need to learn how customers are feeling and how they interact with what you do.
Interested: Buy “Gemba Walks by Jim Womack”