Genchi Genbutsu: Go and See, Part 1

In Lean Management Go and See is more of a management mindset than a technique or tool applied. To contrast, here are two approaches to learning about and solving problems (these are general comments):

  • In the West: problems are learned about and solved in a conference room or in a boardroom; there is distance. Decisions are made from a powerpoint presentation and excel spreadsheets.
  • In the East: problems are learned about and solved where it actually happens; in manufacturing, fulfillment and distribution, and like occupations – that means on the factory or shop floor.

In general, data and conclusions codified in powerpoint presentations are steps removed from the actual phenomena. In Lean Thinking, this brings up the difference between Facts and Data.

  • Facts: Facts are actual experience; when a machine fails and you are there observing the machine as it fails, then you can consider that a fact. When you are observing customers shop at a retail outlet and you observe, first hand, a customer choosing “x” versus “y”, that first hand experience is a fact.
  • Data: On ┬áthe other hand, looking at a powerpoint presentation or excel spreadsheet that shows how many times a machine failed is considered data. Reading a powerpoint or excel spreadsheet at how often a customer chooses “x” versus “y” is data.

Both data and facts are needed. But, there is a bias toward Facts in Lean Thinking for four major reasons:

  1. Genchi Genbutsu develops your judgment: “Go and See” helps you make better decisions.
  2. Genchi Genbutsu helps you build agreement and┬áconsensus: “Go and See” helps you form agreement, get people on the “same page”, and agree on the problem.
  3. Genchi Genbutsu helps you develop empathy: “Go and See” helps you link high-level thinking with on-the-ground implementation; it helps you “feel with” the people, which then helps you make better decisions and test hypothesis quicker.
  4. Genchi Genbutsu helps you develop other people: “Go and See” helps you empower others by stretching them, by teaching them, by helping them with practical application of theory.

In a series of blog posts on Genchi Genbutsu, I’ll cover each of the items above. Stay tuned.

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