Thursday, May 22, 2003

Just where does change happen?

Late this afternoon, I encountered my colleague Dave at the Coke machine. I paraphrase the conversation.

Dave: Well, you’re looking rather casual today in your jeans and work shoes.

Joe: Yeah, we had a kaizen event today. Out in our parts warehouse. .

D: Now that’s interesting. I just got back from a job site [about 60 miles away].

J: So what was up on that site?

D: I heard we had some material problems on Job X. Since I did the take off on those materials, I figured I’d better get on site and see what I could learn. What did you do?

J: We had three folks from a vendor in. We wanted to see if we could improve our packaging of the material we buy from them. We store all the material in the we stood there and looked at it.

D: Hmmmm. I did kinda the same. I got on the site and saw the customer and two of our key people talking. I just joined them and listened and looked. By being there, it struck me what the problem was. I talked with our folks on the site about it and it seemed plausible. Then, on the way back, I stopped by the [different] vendor who could help solve the problem. I hung out in his shop. We’ll get the parts Tuesday.

J: Now that’s really interesting. With our vendors, we didn’t get any real progress until we did a mock-up, in the shop, of the packaging improvement we were thinking about. And when the ideas hit, the solution was way better than we imagined it could be.

I don’t understand everything I can observe. But, time and time again, I observe that good things happen when problems are discussed in the physical place where they occur. Not in an office. In the workplace. Good things happen when ideas are sketched, not just talked about. Even better things happen when they are mocked up and prototyped. One idea triggers another and solutions begin to happen. Why? I’m not totally sure. But, in Lean language, it is called "going to gemba," Japanese for "workplace."

It is in the workplace that change happens. Dave and I saw it today. Take a walk to your workplace today. Please.

I hope this is helpful. Feel free to forward to a friend. Email me

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