Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Gumbo from Gemba

I was recently watching the popular Food Network show Diners, Drive-ins and Dives with the irrepressible Guy Fieri as host.  If you haven't seen it, the show's shtick for the 30 minutes is to find three out-of-the way restaurants, each with local color and some unique foods.  He then takes cameras into the kitchen and, with rapid conversation and aggressive tape editing, describes how a killer inside-out burger or Mama's Meatloaf comes to be for faithful patrons.  

Why is the show popular, though??  I wondered and observed.  

They shoot the show in the kitchen.  For a restaurant, this is truly gemba, the place where value is created.  The kitchens are often cramped, dingy, greasy; hardly from an ad for an appliance maker.  The chefs are not actors but cooks, people who both know and love what they do.  

The fact that this is so appealing tells me a lot.  People want to know about how value is created.  They are interested in what goes on.  Dare I say, they would like to know about the process which leads to the result?  The kitchen clatter on the show is as much about technique as it is about ingredients.  

The cooks are truly the experts...they know more than anyone about the product and the process.  Guy goes right to them and gets them to talk and explain.  

Do we, as lean leaders, spend enough time in gemba to get greasy, to smell the burned mistakes, to feel the heat, to sense the time pressure, to realize why the flour has to be stored where it is?  

And, if we do, are we not better able to explain why we do what we do, in a way that makes our gemba as attractive as the hot-dog joint at a resort?  

Mind you, some gembas taste better than others.  But we can each work hard to give ours it's time to be heard.  

Keep on learning.



Unknown said...

I agree about the reason why these shows are so popular. You get to see how things are done as they are done.

Another show that is probably more scripted than it comes across is the Salon Takeover show, where an expert turns salons around.

The follow up part of the show is the best. Most of the formerly bad salon owners are TRULY changed from the experience, some though never really learned.

Rodney Cooley said...

We should be spending a lot of time on the floor. How else can we really know how to improve a process or identify a problem that is affecting the quality of a product? Sitting in an office on the second floor doesn't help. Being really involved with the team and having a strong understanding of the process happens only by being where the work is being done.

Unknown said...

After my repeated warnings about the non manufacturability of a particular design to the automobile design team had no effect, I had no way but to explain the situation to my boss. My boss who is the project head and a very high IQ man understood the technical difficulty of mass manuacturing. I overheard him saying the design head ' Dani sahab, Please come down from your ivory tower and see the problem for yourself'.

Many a times the white collar designers are not ready to come out of their air conditioned chambers to see for themselves.

I hope Lean penetrates fast into Indian companies.