This article entitled “Genchi Genbutsu Toyota 4Runner: A Powerful Go and See Example” is a story of how Genchi Genbutsu was applied in the development of the toyota 4runner.
Other articles in the Genchi Genbutsu Series:
- Genchi Genbutsu: Data versus Facts
- Genchi Genbutsu: Develop Better Judgment
- Genchi Genbutsu: See the Problem Clearly
- Genchi Genbutsu: Develop Empathy
- Genchi Genbutsu: Helps us to Develop Others
Participative Design in your product development efforts ensures that the customer and firm get the product right. But, it takes some humility and a culture of continuous improvement and of being customer obsessed. The three attributes I just mentioned completely describe Toyota.
“One of the benefits of this project was that our team was allowed to start from scratch.” Sure, there are incremental improvements. And then there are the starting — from-scratch projects like the 4Runner.
Furuyama on creating a better SUV (or a better anything else, for that matter. “There is a phrase that is often used by vehicle development engineers at Toyota to explain the foundation of our engineering strategy. The phrase is genchi genbutsu. As a direct translation, genchi means ‘local’ or ‘on-site.’ Genbutsu means ‘real thing’ or ‘actual materials.’ “More loosely translated as a philosophy, it means: Go, see, and confirm.
“The phrase is a reminder that we cannot assume to know everything. And that it is counter-productive to assume that we do. More importantly-and especially for those of us who think we have all the answers — the phrase is a philosophical caveat.”
So, in the case of the 4Runner, Toyota engineers based in Toyota City came to the U.S., the most important market for the 4Runner (Go). They worked with the people at the Toyota Technical Center in Ann Arbor and Toyota Motor Sales (Torrance, CA) in order determine how people use their vehicles and what the market is like (See). And they subsequently made modifications to their initial plans for what a 4Runner should be (Confirm).
Furuyama: “Where we began the development of the 4Runner was far from where we ended up. In fact, it was about the distance between Japan and the U.S.”
Genchi-genbutsu can make a whole lot of difference. Not only is it about being there, but it is, perhaps more importantly, about being able to accept that there are differences that may cause you to have to rethink your original suppositions.