I've seen two useful examples in the past week of being, or not being, in gemba, the place where work gets done.
A good friend on the west coast vented about a phenomenally frustrating meeting he had in his company. In short, it seemed some folks in a related but politically-higher-status department produced a chart, fully color-coded and arrowed, telling his department how to run things. All with no warning. You can imagine the annoyance and insult he felt. When someone who does not see or connect with your work area tells you something without either observing or listening, you feel defensive. And hardly interested. It feels like a power play instead.
Here in our fair city, Jerry told me of a consultant visiting a work cell at his plant. Fairly quickly, the consultant sensed serious discord between the team leader and the associates. There had been earlier reports of this, yet they had been ignored. You see, the Plant Manager had not been to the actual the work cell; he had only reviewed reports, prepared by the Team leader. Why did the PM avoid the cell? On discussion with Jerry it seemed that organizational structure, history, the PM's busy-ness and lack of deep interest all contributed. To the consultant, the problems (and possible solutions) were crystal clear...largely because he physically sat in the work cell for 90 minutes and observed. Will it improve, Jerry wondered?
There's no substitute for direct observation. Go walk to the some work area, any work area, today.