Ron Pereira over at LSS Academy wrote a great post about the Japanese phrase Genchi Genbutsu. He quotes Jon Miller, a Lean consultant who is also fluent in Japanese, as translating genchi genbutsu to “actual place, actual thing”.

Pereira’s post caught my attention because he opened with this quote from the father of the Toyoto Production System, Taiichi Ohno: “Data is of course important in manufacturing, but I place the greatest emphasis on facts.”

As a leader in a company that specializes in “Turning Data into Knowledge” I suppose I should feel a little threatened by this statement. On the contrary I think it is spot on.

Real-time visibility to data is a tremendously useful simply because you can’t be everywhere at once. Live OEE Dashboards, real-time control charts, and instantaneous email alarms can let you know when something has changed. And they can tell you if the change is statistically significant so that you’re not reacting in the wrong way to random variation.

But ultimately you have to get up from your desk and go to the work to see for yourself.  All these tools can help you know when and where to go, but they won’t do the work for you.

Pereira’s post includes a great story about what a Toyoto Engineer learned by going to the work.

Where are the weak links in your organization? Do your people know when they have a problem? Do they go to the work when they need to?

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