Monday, June 29, 2009

Does it really matter if I "Go and See" or not?

The answer is YES!!!

I have to admit during my time as a Group Leader on the production floor at TMMK (Toyota Motor Manufacturing KY) I was guilty, on occassion, of doing certain levels of problem solving from behind my desk or at the computer. I was often in such a hurry to get my A3 written and turned in to my Managers that I would often forget the essential element in the problem solving process. I would usually tell myself-- "I just don't have time", or "I already know what the problem is". Do some of these comments/thoughts sound familiar to you? It's ok you can admit, I just did :0).

It was often a hard lesson to understand the importance of actually going to the GEMBA (japanese term for actual workplace) when your in the middle of those daily reactive moments of "fire-fighting". One of the many lessons the japanese taught me was: "What is more value added, spend time getting to the root cause, or only solving a symptom of the problem"? When we try to solve a problem from our desks we miss the experience of actually "seeing" the problem first hand, and also talking with the team members who know the problem characteristics better than we do. I consider them the "professionals" out there! This action helps build mutual trust and respect with your team members as well as the potential on the job development (OJD) opportunities with team members or leaders learning to understand good traits in effective problem solving or A3 writing process.
One of my favorite quotes from Taiichi Ohno (father of TPS) was: "Of course Data is important, but I place the greatest importance on facts or the truth". This statement is about Genchi Genbutsu (Go and See).... in some of my classes at the Toyota plants many have coined that japanese phrase "Get your boots on!". Meaning, go out to the floor, visit the GEMBA and find the facts; not assumptions and get to root cause. When you demonstrate this disclipline to your team members you are being an effective leader, and efficiently solving problems. Repetition of these actions can create a strong problem solving culture and awareness at the worksite as well as developing good habits in the way we think about our GAPS (Gap= a discrepancy in the Ideal Situation and Current Situation).
So the next time you are faced with solving a problem, and you find yourself falling into the time trap trying to solve it from assumptions or past experiences, just remember to "Get your boots on" and GO and SEE. You will actually find you will spend LESS time on your problem than chasing around symptoms. Until next time,
Tracey Richardson (Have a good 4th of July weekend!)


  1. "Go and See" is so important a Lean concept that, in my opinion, it should be considered one of the key underpinnings of the Toyota Management System.

    I've been recruiting Lean executives on behalf of my clients for the last 15+ years and so you would expect that some TPS principles and practices would have become deeply embedded in our executive search process. And in fact they have, into a customized search approache which we have trademarked as PDCAsearch (tm).

    PDCAsearch (tm) mandates that we go and see. One of our first process steps after accepting a search assignment is to visit our client company (at a minimum, the site where the new executive will work), interview all key managers with whom he or she will interact, and thereby develop a clear understanding of the culture and environment in which that executive will need to operate.

    And later, during our executive selection process, we also insist on conducting personal interviews with each of our finalist candidates. In almost every situation we again "go and see" by conducting that interview in the executive's “home turf” work environment. Again, we come away with insights and facts, and not assumptions which might later prove fatal to a successful executive hire.

    Executive search is a very high-profile form of corporate problem-solving. By identifying root causes behind the recruiting issues early in the process and at the Gemba, we are able help our clients move more rapidly to a future state where the right new Lean leader is onboard and doing the right things, right from the start.

    Adam Zak,

  2. I agree Adam.. with my time at Toyota it was one of the 5 values of the Toyota Way. It is VERY important in regard to the Toyota Management System. In my training sessions I get to hear so many excuses why people dont? hence my topic. Great stuff Adam, thanks for sharing!! Tracey