Author: Rick McCarthy

‘Go see, ask why, show respect’.  This is the advice of Toyota’s Chairman Cho. What he is referring to is the art of the Gemba walk. In a world-class company and specifically one that subscribes to the TPS philosophy, Leaders go to the Gemba to make themselves aware of the current conditions of the business. What they expect to see is visual evidence of a team working to a standard, current status, exceptions and plans to overcome exceptions. When the current status of the operation is shared in an effective, visual way, there is very little that has to be discussed other then to engage with the team or team leaders as to ‘why’ the current conditions exist. The ‘show respect’ is the essential component that will determine whether or not you will be successful in creating a problem solving, continuous improvement culture.

When I speak to management teams about this fundamental principle, this is usually when the sneering and laughing begins. They talk about going down and applying ‘pigeon management’ – When a manager flies in, craps all over everyone, and flies away again. They are talking about the abuse of positional power. This is when a manager uses intimidation to get what they want. The manager may believe he is getting what he wants, but this is short-term thinking.

A Lean culture relies on revealing problems. this can only be done in an environment of trust and respect. In the long run the respect the manager is showing the team will serve to imbed a culture of trust and an environment of revealing problems, instead of hiding them!

To advance in your Lean journey, a company must learn how to set standards, measure against standards and solve for the variance in a team problem solving format. In this journey, the management style must adapt to embrace respect and build trust to address the gaps between targets and actual results.

A Lean organization is Characterized by the following:

1. They are aware of Problems (FYI – No problems is a problem)

2. They work to Standards – Set targets and work to them and solve for variance

3. They Measure performance daily!

4. They create wall-to-wall visualization – Creating a visual workplace to report current conditions and show evidence of problem solving.

5. They focus on Total Quality Management – Aggressive plan to eliminate waste in the business and create a focus on customer delivery.

6. They practice daily continuous improvement – Everyday Kaizen! Problem revealing is rewarded.

7. They roll out improvements through out the business where they apply – Yokoten, or ‘Photo Copy’

About the Author:

Rick McCarthy is the Managing Director for Training Leadership Consulting (TLC). Rick oversees client service delivery and has over 17 years of experience as a trainer/mentor of Lean, Six Sigma, Business Process, Change Management, and other Business Improvement related topics.

Rick works one-on-one with clients  as a Client Engagement Leader, Executive Mentor, and is often found  leading Value Stream Mapping sessions and Gemba walks or engaging in Kaizen activities with customers at the Gemba.