Toyota’s president is urging his own company to remember the principle of “Genchi Genbutsu,” or “go and see.” David Mann, author of Creating a Lean Culture: Tools to Sustain Lean Conversions, puts it real simply: “Go the place, talk to the people, see the problem.”
“Watanabe, a former purchasing chief who became president in 2005, said Toyota was working hard to improve quality and coordination with its parts suppliers, acknowledging that it had fallen short. ‘There are cases where our efforts aren’t adequate,’ he said.
He said the company also was urging managers and workers to return to the basic tenets of the renowned Toyota Production System, and go to the site of any problem to analyze what went wrong. ‘This is something shameful for us to share with you, but it is important,’ he said, speaking through an interpreter.”
Toyota has its share of problems these days — quality problems and recalls, but the public face of the company is one of humility and a desire to do better, not excuses. Is Watanabe saying that Toyota has gotten away from the “go and see” approach, or is he just reiterating its importance?
Watanabe’s advice is the classic Toyota approach to problem solving, working at the “gemba” (the actual place where work is done) instead of in meetings or conferences rooms. Is there a chance to apply this approach in your company? Has this helped? What stories do you have to share about this method?
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