A strange word with an important meaning for leaders

If you’ve followed me for a while, you know I’m a “plant rat.” I love manufacturing and everything about it.

It’s real.

You can touch it and see it.

You can see raw material being transformed by employees into a final product.

Maybe that’s why I have spent more than 25 years leading manufacturing businesses.

Some of what it takes to run a manufacturing business isn’t 100% applicable to other businesses, but, there is one term from the world of Lean Manufacturing that is applicable to all businesses.

It comes from the Japanese and the word is Gemba.

Gemba is Japanese for “the real place.”

What does that mean?

It’s the place where value is added.

  • In manufacturing, it’s the shop floor
  • In a school, it’s the classroom
  • At a bank, it’s the teller windows
  • At a call center, it’s the call center floor

If you can’t figure out where that is in your business, in most cases, it’s where most of your employees are.

And, it’s likely not where management is. In fact, that’s the problem.

Too many leaders are sequestered in their offices or in meetings far from where the value is added, far away from where their people are.

Too many leaders are sequestered in their offices or in meetings far from where the value is added, far away from where their people are. Click To Tweet

Most leaders make decisions based on what they assume is happening in “the real place.”

Taiichi Ohno, an industrial engineer and the Father of the Toyota Production System, understood this. He knew leaders needed to understand what was happening in Gemba to make the right decisions.

And, I love this story!

To get his team to understand what was happening in Gemba, he would draw a circle on the manufacturing shop floor and tell young managers to stand there as long as 8 hours with a notebook.

Then he would ask them what they learned.

In every case, these engineers discovered problems that needed to be addressed. Real problems based on real observations!

Contrast this with the many managers who rarely venture out to where the magic happens.

We had an expression in the Navy which I love, “Expect what you inspect.”

Expect what you inspect. Click To Tweet

How can you know what’s happening if you haven’t seen it yourself? In other words, you need to get out of your office to see what’s really going on. I often say that “leadership is a people business” and you can’t understand the problems your people face if you’re locked up in your office.

So, get out there!

Go to Gemba and learn what is really going on in your organization. Your employees will appreciate it and you will gain a new perspective.

Deep Leadership Podcast

By the way, If you want to know more about Gemba and how it applies to your business, listen to the latest episode of my new podcastDeep Leadership.

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My Interview on the Whistle and a Clipboard Podcast

Today I appeared on the Whistle and a Clipboard Podcast to talk about my latest book, I Have the Watch. During this podcast, I talk about the fundamentals of being a leader and the similarities between coaches and leaders.

The Whistle and a Clipboard Podcast with Coach Jason Oates is a coaching community podcast where Jason interviews successful coaches from the past, present, and future to learn from their coaching failures and successes.

This is a great back-and-forth discussion on the importance of leadership and the role of the leader. So, listen in and enjoy my conversation with Jason!

For those of you who have been asking, I Have the Watch is now available on Audible.

I Have the Watch AudioBook Cover

My Interview on The Leadership Update Brief

Today I appeared on the Leadership Update Brief to talk about my latest book, I Have the Watch. During this podcast, I talk about the origins of my leadership story and the genesis for my new book.

The Leadership Update Brief on C-Suite Radio with Ed Brzychcy is a podcast for today’s entrepreneurs and business leaders who want to accelerate their growth towards next level success.

This is a great back-and-forth discussion on the importance of leadership and the role of the leader. So, listen in and enjoy my conversation with Ed!

For those of you who have been asking, I Have the Watch is now available on Audible.