|Seeing fireworks from a distance is like managing from your office.|
Our city held its fireworks display last night, not too far from my house. I'm not attracted to huge throngs of people, and by 10:15 pm, I'm usually in bed with my book. I couldn't see them, but the explosions were rattling my windows.
I can choose to hear and feel the fireworks from down the road, look at pictures on the local news website, or watch them on YouTube, perhaps,
But when you are at the park, lying on your blanket under the bursts of light and color, the ground shaking with the blasts, your hands over your ears, going "Ooooh" and "Wow!" it's a completely different matter.
So is being at the gemba. You hear the machines, feel the impact when the press meets the die or the cutting tool winds the metal off the workpiece, feel the heat of forging or heat treating.Your sense of smell, perhaps below your consciousness, informs you of something overheating, fumes that should be exhausted, grease that should be cleaned, if conditions are in need of improvement. You are immersed in the experience, from feeling the floor beneath you as you walk, the activity 360 degrees around you, cranes above you, whether the illumination is adequate, too bright, or murky.
You can answer or ask a question the moment the opportunity arises. Does the employee or manager know about the process as a whole or the operation in front of you? Is there enthusiasm and confidence, or hesitation? You see the faces of the employees: concentrating, smiling, or scowling.
If you're miles away, you can get detailed real-time reporting on your new "dashboard" or get weekly or monthly "numbers." You can call or skype somebody, or even get a live video feed if you want.
If you're getting trained, you can read a book, go through a simulation, do some online learning, watch videos.
If you are in IT or engineering, you can talk to people, work to specifications, and test, test, test.
If you are in HR, you can collect performance evaluations, train people, and interview new hires or departing employees.
But you don't really get it if you're not THERE!
It's a choice. Be surrounded by the drama and excitement of the Fourth of July fireworks, or stay home, feel an occasional "boom," and listen to your windows rattle while you focus on something else. If it's your business, you need to be there -- at the gemba.