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What does “genchi genbutsu” mean?

In the two previous posts, I described some of the ways to plan and organize your improvement work. Without a good plan, it’s easy to get lost. With a good plan, even if it almost never turns out as you planned, you still have something to fall back on when reality strikes.

Without reconnaissance no idea

I learned early in my military career that without reconnaissance, you have no idea what’s going on. To translate this into business development and improvement, it means that we need to see what it looks like in reality, before we set out to improve.

In LEAN we talk about “going out and seeing for yourself” which is important to get the right understanding and first-hand information. In Japanese it is called genchi genbutsu, which means “real place, real things”.

Many people find it a bit tedious to go through how things are today. You want to jump straight into the future and improve, where you can be creative and come up with new things.

“We already know that” is something I hear over and over again. But see, they didn’t know that at all. Because after a while, when we’ve gone through what it’s like in the business today and how they really work, I always hear comments like:

“Wow, no wonder it doesn’t work when it looks like this,” and so they point to the mapping of the flow that’s been done.
“You do that? I do this…”, says one to the other who has been working together for 10 years and does the same tasks.
“No, I have no idea what they do, we do this and then I don’t know any more,” someone says as the process being mapped begins to approach the limit in their own department.

So, to know what you need to improve and use it as a starting point for your future work, you need to understand what you are doing today.

What got better?

Some other things that are important to find out are the values about the current business.

  • How many “cases” flow through the process?
  • How long does it take?How much working time is spent?
  • How many cases take route A, and how many take route B, in the flow?
  • O s v.

If you lack these baseline values, it is difficult to design an improved flow because you cannot calculate the benefit of moving from the current state to the desired state.

In addition, once you have introduced the improvement, it is also difficult to measure and see concretely what was improved. Such as type X cases took on average 22 days, but now take only 2 hours, and type Y cases took on average 8 days, and now take only 20 seconds.

In the Six Sigma method, this part is very important; to measure in order to create an understanding. And I like that, because it’s through the numbers that we see in front of us that we can put things into perspective in the current process. But also to put the current process in relation to other processes.

SoBE, phase 2: Mapping and understanding

As I mentioned earlier, this autumn we will start the next round of the Certified Improvement Leader training which is now upgraded with the latest version of the Shaper of Business Excellence improvement methodology.

The first phase of five is to plan and organise your improvement work. The second is to map and understand the current state of the business for each priority process.

Don’t fail to conduct a good survey. Without it, you won’t have the same impact in the next phases of improvement.


Are you interested in learning more about how you could lead and drive your improvement efforts? Then I think you should sign up for the entry list. This means that you will receive more information before it is released to all “others”. I will also be able to answer your specific questions about your improvement work.

Click here to sign up for the entry list. Of course, it is completely unconditional and you have not committed yourself to anything, but only said that you want more information.

Until next time,