You are on page 1of 2

Genchi genbutsu

More a frame of mind than a plan of action This is a Japanese phrase meaning go and see for yourself, which is a central pillar of the Toyota Way, the famous management system adopted by the Japanese car company. Genchi genbutsu is sometimes referred to as get your boots on, which has a similar cadence and meaning. It is not dissimilar to the idea behind management by walking about (MBWA), an all-too-briefly popular American version of the same principle. Both MBWA and genchi genbutsu are more a frame of mind than a plan of action. They acknowledge that when information is passed around within organisations it is inevitably simplified and generalised. The only real way to understand a problem is to go and see it on the ground. In at least one important respect genchi genbutsu represents a fundamental difference between western and Japanese management styleswhereas in the West knowledge is gleaned and digested in the office or the boardroom, in Japan it is gleaned on the factory floor. When asked to resolve a problem, Japanese managers go to see the place where it has arisen. American managers generally make their diagnosis from a distance. Related items

Toyota's ongoing troubles: It's not stopping...Feb 9th 2010 Idea: FranchisingOct 12th 2009 Idea: KaizenApr 14th 2009 Idea: Management by walking aboutSep 8th 2008

Related topics


Another Japanese word, gemba, is allied to the same concept. Gemba means place, the place (as it were) where the action happens. Genchi genbutsu involves going to the gemba to check on the genbutsu (the relevant objects). Masaaki Imai, a Japanese management writer who introduced the West to the idea of kaizen, wrote a book called Gemba Kaizen. This combined the concept of gradual improvement (kaizen) with an on-the-spot presence (gemba)being there in order to spot any opportunity for improvement. Imai says there are five golden rules of what he calls gemba management:

When a problem arises, go to the gemba firstdon't try to make a diagnosis on the phone. Check the genbutsuthe relevant objectsbecause seeing is believing. Take temporary counter-measures on the spot to resolve the problem. Then find the root cause of the problem. Lastly, standardise procedures to avoid a recurrence. Toyota is the most devoted exponent of genchi genbutsu. An article in 2004 in the Chicago Sun-Times gave a vivid example of the principle in action inside the company. Yuji Yokoya, a Toyota engineer, was given responsibility for re-engineering a new generation of the Toyota Sienna minivan for the North American market. So he drove one more than 53,000 miles across America, from Anchorage to the Mexican border and from Florida to California. As the paper described it: Crossing the Mississippi River by bridge, he [Yokoya] noted that the Sienna's crosswind stability needed improvement. He observed excessive steering drift while traversing gravel roads in Alaska, and the need for a tighter turning radius along the crowded streets in Santa Fe. Driving through Glacier National Park, he decided the handling needed to be crisper. He also made an all-wheel-drive option a priority, along with more interior space and cargo flexibility. Finally, he decided that the new Sienna would have to be a minivan that families, and especially kids, could live in for extended periods of time. Upgrading seat quality became a priority, along with kid friendly features such as a roll-down window for second-row passengers, an optional DVD entertainment centre and a conversation mirror so parents could monitor what was going on in the back seat. Further reading Imai, M., Gemba Kaizen: A Commonsense Low-Cost Approach to Management, McGraw-Hill, 1997