TPS Benchmarking

Genjitsu: The Only Reality

By Jon Miller Published on June 24th, 2008

There are those moments when the right words come together in an a way that resonates deeply and inspires one to write them down and repeat them to others. The words by themselves are not profound, and one suspects that even rearranged slightly they would lose their power. I heard these words today and knew them to be true before hearing them, but nonetheless felt compelled to reach for a pen and write them down:
The only reality is what you go see with your own eyes.
If this is true than all other reports, presentations and tales we tell each other are just that: stories of the past with questionable links to the only reality that you can affect today. It requires us to go have a look to gain a deep enough understanding to do something about this reality. Where do we go to have a look? There is a place called the gemba.
Our company name “gemba” means literally “the actual place” where things happen, be it construction, news or factory production. Gemba is where the action is. We say “go to gemba” to mean the deliberate practice of taking oneself to where product is made or where value is otherwise created or service is rendered. For professionals who have risen to their station through hard work, luck, education or some combination thereof, getting away from the hot, noisy and smelly gemba is a career achievement. Yet lean management gently boots these successful professionals back to the gemba to find the only reality.
Toyota has introduced genchi genbutsu to the international glossary of terms related to TPS. A pronunciation guide: “gen” as in “again” + chee, and then “gen” again with “but” as in “boot” and “su” as in “sue”. In English this has been shortened to “go see”. But go see what? The reality or “genjitsu”. It’s hardly adequate when the original Japanese is “the real spot, the real thing” and does not in any way say to “go” do anything. It’s implied.
The only reality is what you go see with your own eyes. Why not go have a look?

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