Lean Manufacturing

Road Trips, Bad Directions & Going to Gemba

By Jon Miller Published on August 15th, 2007

Thanks for telling us your lean failure stories, Andrea, Allison and Brad. You are all winners. E-mail or call us us with your mailing address and we’ll send you a prize.
Speaking of things that can ruin a road trip as well as a Lean transformation, here is another: bad directions. Today we spent an hour in a rental car trying to figure out where the factory was. Luckily, we always do this on the night before the visit. We have learned that it pays to go to gemba to verify.
This time the Google map directions were bad. Very bad. We followed them exactly and ended up here:
After calling our office, using sattellite images courtesy of Google to understand that the road was on the other side of the jungle, and finding an alternate route, we were able to verify that the factory was there at the correct address. Here is what they saw at the Gemba office.
That’s quite a difference in plan vs. actual, Gemba vs. gemba. Genchi genbutsu, often translated as “go see for yourself” (in this case “actual address, actual building”) is always a good practice whether in problem solving, Lean transformation, or simply being on time for business meeting.
During a Lean transformation or in any effort to change the status quo of how we think and how we work, we should always start with the best directions available to us. This could be a Lean deployment road map, a step by step plan or an implementation model based success elsewhere. Always check these directions, as sometimes they are bad. Perhaps they were good directions yesterday, but today the road may be overgrown with kudzu.

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