Monday, May 23, 2011

Go To Gemba

By Al Norval

It’s a simple phrase but one that gives so much trouble to people. Go to Gemba – where the real value added work is done.

It reflects a Mental Model of “Go See for Yourself”. Instead many people find it easier to sit at their desk and let their computer tell them what’s going on. More than that, they find it easier to send e-mails rather than talking to people and asking questions. We know that much of human communication comes from non-verbal cues. The look on the person’s face, the tone they are using, their hand and head gestures, all play a part in good two way communication. Most of that is lost in the world of e-mails or IM messages. Don’t get me wrong, they have a role to play but nothing beats Going to Gemba and seeing for yourself.

Going to Gemba doesn’t mean going to look around and spend some time on idle chit chat with Team Members. Rather it means going with a purpose and this purpose has three elements:

Go See

Ask Why?

Show Respect

Go See – and seek to understand. See with your own eyes. They won’t lie to you or hide things from you. What you see will be closer to the truth than what you hear or read.

Ask Why? – demonstrate Leader as a Teacher. Get to the root cause of problems. Challenge Team Members and develop their Lean thinking.

Show Respect - always be hard on the process and easy on the people. Only then will people open up, stop being defensive and truly find some creative countermeasures to problems.

A big failure of Leadership is the lack of Going to Gemba. By not Going to Gemba and asking why, Leaders really don't know and understand what is actually happening. They don’t see problems and they don’t teach others to see problems.

Makes it difficult to lead and coach your team and to drive the improvement throughout the organization needed to reach our business targets.

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