A Response to "Gemba, Schmemba"
Kent, a reader of and sometimes commenter on this blog, found a blog (“The Corporate Cynic”) that made a wild and uninformed attack on the Toyota Production System concept of “gemba.”
In the original post, the Cynic ranted, in part:
“I never found out what Gemba means. Is it an acronym? Consultants love acronyms. Is it a classical Greek word? Consultants with PhDs love to use Greek.. Personally, I really don't care.”
If the Cynic wasn't too lazy to do a quick google search on the term, he would have learned what “gemba” is and what gemba is not. It's easy to dismiss his as uninformed rantings.
While it doesn't really deserve the time involved in a response, Kent put together a good response on his blog that prompted some good comments.
Kent said, in part:
A rant over on “The Corporate Cynic” got me thinking about gemba. Jerome writes that the whole concept seems to be a “goofy” gimmick that would just result in more paperwork.
He could not have been more wrong.
Gemba is a Japanese word that means the “actual place.” Practitioners of lean manufacturing/lean service talk about the importance of going to the gemba in order to see for yourself what really happens. Going to the gemba is a core principle of the Toyota Way, and should be a core tool that every leader uses.
You won't solve problems at your desk. To find real solutions to real problems, you are going to need to get up, put on your safety shoes, and go out on the shop floor. (Or, put on your shopping clothes and go observe customers in your coffee shop.)
Going to the gemba is not the same as “Management By Wandering Around,” another of Jerome's misconceptions. Mike Wroblewski has it right, when he describes going to the gemba as “Management By Standing Still.” It's about standing where you can watch the process and staying there for hours. That's right – hours, not minutes or seconds. It's about trying to understand what is really going on.
Amen, Kent. Go visit Kent's blog to read his full thoughts and the reader comments.