Having our mind free of preconceptions is what allows us to observe, understand and create effective problem solving skills. Although this is difficult we need to practice it by thinking we are observers who are not taking part of the problem but “sightseeing it”.
For instance, we found a quality defect on one of our products which cause seem to be perfectly detected as it is similar to past experiences, but on this occasion, we are not able to find the source of the problem. The aforementioned is one of the typical cases we commonly find within our industries. It is now when we need to start practicing sightseeing without preconceptions, asking why (using the 5 why’s technique, for example) until we find the source.
A maxim we never have to forget is that all problems have a solution so sooner or later we will find the source.
The 12th Principle of Toyota Way is based on the previous explanation, it states the following:
“Go and see for yourself to thoroughly understand the situation.”
It is based on the fact that we need a thorough understanding of a situation in order to solve it. The only way to do it is by going to the place and see what is happening by yourself (genchi genbutsu) having you mind free from preconceptions and asking why 5 times for every issue (Taiichi Ohno).
It is common in today’s data-driven world to make decisions based on information using databases and reports. Data-based decision making is a by-product of the need to be agile in reacting to changing business needs and proximity to the situation or problem becomes less mandatory.
However, the more we focus on data only, the more we increase the distance from us to the true activities within a process.
Data can explain a small part of the problem, but it can’t tell you everything. Going to see the process or activity yourself lets you gain a better understanding of what is happening.
Some of the benefits coming from Genchi Genbutsu:
- Easier to understand the context of the process or activity being done.
- You are provided with further qualitative information which data does not provide.
- Increase communication between management and blue collar achieving a better outcome on the long-term basis.
- A bad process can be identified and rectified.
- Root cause analysis and problem solving activities must be done next to the problem source.
There is a curious anecdote about Taiichi Ohno’s genchi genbutsu style, he usually draw a circle within the manufacturing plant in the place where he thought he had good visibility of the process. Sometimes he stayed for 8 hours watching the process and workforce trying to understand and looking for ways to continuously improve.