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Becoming a better manager isn’t something that happens instantly. It’s a process that takes experience and time. One thing that will fast track your journey to becoming a better manager is your ability to spot improvement opportunities and solve problems. I believe that working on any problem or improvement opportunity starts with data gathering and proper observation. It is the merging of data and experience that will arm managers to make better decisions for their teams and the company. This is where the genchi genbutsu principle comes in handy for those who want to become better managers. 

What is the Genchi Genbutsu Principle?

Genchi genbutsu is one of the thirteen pillars of the Toyota Production System. The closest English translation of the Japanese term genchi genbutsu is “actual location, actual thing.” Toyota brought a whole new meaning to this set of words and gave birth to a principle which means “to go and see.”

Genchi genbutsu is the mindset that managers must imbibe. The desire to personally encounter and experience business problems enables managers to make better solutions and strategies to move the organization forward. The genchi genbutsu principle is a key attitude that will refocus a manager’s efforts. 

How does Genchi Genbutsu relate with Genba?

You’ll see genba always popping up when you start talking about the genchi genbutsu principle. These two concepts are tied to each other like glue. It is simply because the genchi genbutsu principle is the mindset and genba is the method.

Let me explain.

Genba loosely translates to the “actual place” in English. In the Toyota Production System, to perform genba is to go to the real place of work. Imagine you are in a car manufacturing plant. The real place of work is the shop floor. 

But genba isn’t confined to a place. 

If we take the genchi genbutsu principle as our mindset, genba can be any work place, work item, or even an employee so long as it is connected to where the actual work is done. To practice genba means to see for yourself, which is exactly what genchi genbutsu is about.

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Why Seeing For Yourself is the First Step to Become a Better Manager

Here are three reasons why the genchi genbutsu principle is your first step to becoming a better manager. 

Combining Data and Observation to Make Better Decisions

You will have to deal with a handful of reports and even create some yourself when you are a manager. The numbers and data can say a lot about a business process. But there are some insights that only personal experience can offer. By going to the source, you are not only relying on reports and data alone. You are immersing yourself with the business process at hand. 

By applying the genchi genbutsu principle, you are merging data and observation to come up with better decisions and strategies for your company.

Forge Better Employee Relationships

There are times when employees feel that management is not paying attention to their concerns. Genchi genbutsu enables you to connect with your employees on issues that affect them and the company as a whole. Doing a genba walk will help you understand their needs and possible struggles better. Taking the time to experience what your employees are going through will make them feel that you genuinely care about their well-being.

Take a Proactive Approach Towards Improvement

The genchi genbutsu principle forces managers to develop a proactive mindset. Proactively looking at the sources of problems not only helps you solve cases faster. It can also help you prevent bigger issues from happening. It’s a cost-effective risk mitigation technique. 

Proactive observation by doing genba walks also allows you to spot improvement opportunities so you can realize its benefits faster.

Going to the Source with the Genchi Genbutsu Principle

Whether it’s a machine that broke down, an employee who encountered a process problem, or an incorrect report generated from your software, you’ve got to go to the source. Don’t rely on a printed report or an email of what happened. Don’t rely on colorful charts and animated presentations alone. Get down there and experience it for yourself. Only then will you confirm what your employees are sharing. Only then will you confirm your assumptions and hypotheses. Only then can you make an informed decision. 

As managers, you deal with a lot of problems and challenges to improve your organization. I hope that you remember the genchi genbutsu principle the next time that you are given a problem to solve. And know that going to the source is your first step to finding a solution.

About the Author: Lena Boiser

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Lena Boiser is an Agile enthusiast. Starting off her career as a Software Business Analyst in 2010, she eventually performed other roles including Project Manager and IT Business Manager. When she was immersed in Agile methodologies in 2014, Lena found her way through honing her craft and eventually became a Certified Scrum Product Owner. In 2017, after 7 years of working in the corporate world, Lena started her own remote consulting practice. Today, she provides project management and Scrum Product Ownership services to various businesses including software development companies, e-Commerce business owners, and small to medium sized companies. She believes that even teams working remotely can harness the benefits of Agile in order to deliver results for their companies. In her free time she likes to write. One day she could be writing about Agile, the next she could be writing anything about fashion or travel.