Friday, April 11, 2014

Lean Quote: Go to the Gemba

On Fridays I will post a Lean related Quote. Throughout our lifetimes many people touch our lives and leave us with words of wisdom. These can both be a source of new learning and also a point to pause and reflect upon lessons we have learned. Within Lean active learning is an important aspect on this journey because without learning we can not improve.

"Farming looks mighty easy when your plow is a pencil and you're 1,000 miles from the corn field.— Dwight Eisenhower

Get out there, go to the Gemba. I say this to executives and to people on-the-floor alike. They must start their Lean journey with a trip to see what Toyota calls the three reals - the real place, the real data and the real problem. They must go and see for themselves, not just take the advice of a Lean committee!

Management must go to the Gemba to practice Lean thinking. Gemba is roughly translated from the Japanese as the real place. The idea of the Gemba is simple: go to the place, look at the process, and talk with the people. Gemba walking teaches us to see in new ways what we have failed to see before. So what do you look for and how do you see it? All management should learn to ask these three simple questions:

       1) What is the process?

       2) How can you tell it is working?

       3) What are you doing to improve it (if it is working)?

Nothing sustains itself, certainly not Lean manufacturing or Lean management. So, establish and stick to a routine including regular visits to the Gemba, check the status of visual controls, follow-up on daily accountability assignments, and ask the three simple questions everywhere. Lean management is, as much as anything, a way of thinking.

Going to the Gemba has become popular for the simple reason that it is powerfully effective. But there is more to it than getting up from your desk, as even this simple explanation attempts to demonstrate.

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