A question for all leaders, including myself: “When things do not go according to plan, what typically is our first course of action?”
Depending on who, what, where and when I ask this question; the responses, as you might assume, are highly varied. However, most often and respectfully, there remains a common gap in our thinking.
Rarely do I hear a response along the lines of: “I need to go see and ask questions”; “I need to go see in order to better understand”; “I got to go to the gemba”.
Masaaki Imai proposed, “gemba should be the source of all information” [Gemba Kaizen, 1997]. Agreeing strongly with his perspective, I think of nothing smarter to do as a leader, than to go to gemba to see and learn.
If things are not going as planned, why would we pull valuable resources away from their work and hold a meeting to ask them why it’s not going so well? Aren’t we just adding in more waste of time and energy? Aren’t we actually being disrespectful by pulling them away from the real work to meet our needs of wanting to get updated on what’s broken?
I think it makes a lot more sense and certainly more respectful for us to leave our offices, emails and conference rooms behind to go see and ask. Let’s go learn what’s working well and not so well. Let’s go see what barriers are preventing our dedicated and passionate employees from providing the very best to customers, stakeholders and patients.
The goal for all leaders should be to spend way more time in the gemba. Our annual goal should be to wear out our shoes so that we have to buy a new pair every year.