The power of going to genba

Genba (現場, also romanized as gemba) is a Japanese term meaning “the actual place”…. In business, genba refers to the place where value is created; in manufacturing the genbais the factory floor.


Japanese police also talk about a crime scene as genba. So why would you go there? And why is this so important? Here are three reasons why any Lean leader must go to genba (and nowhere else).

Genba is where the real things happen

So Wikipedia translates it as ‘the real place’. Popular language would say ‘it’s where the magic happens’. A key concept here, and an important realisation for carpet land workers, is that things don’t happen in conference room (at least not the important things). Products aren’t made, inventions aren’t seeing the light and almost no sales are done out of a conference room. If you care about your customers and your people, you need to observe what’s happening at genba. Don’t draw any conclusions on safety if you haven’t walked the factory floor. Don’t talk about sales engagement if you have done any joint sales visits yourself. You have to be there…. there where everything happens. There, where real value is created.

It’s where the real problems become visible, not just the symptoms

In our quest for problems worth solving, genba is the place to be. Genba is where you can see the actual problem, rather than just identify symptoms. It’s also the place where you can start looking for causes and maybe even root causes.

A spreadsheet will tell you that productivity was low yesterday. Only observing the actual production line, you can see the actual problem… and it might be different than you spreadsheet suggests.

Genba is where the most important people are

Your most important people are at genba, your employees and your customers. In some cases, the genba is actually where they meet. A sales meeting, the customer service desk or your website. It’s also only those people that can tell you about what is happening what they do and what they think. If you want to understand why return rates are high, you’re going to ask you customer, not a random person on the street. And at genba, that’s where you’ll find your customer.

Photo by Remy Gieling on Unsplash

Let’s do a genba walk together