So you might be listening today just to find out what the heck a Gemba is. If that’s you, welcome to the show and I’m glad you’re here.

Gemba is a Japanese word that is used in Lean Manufacturing to basically mean the place where the work is getting done.

There are phrases like “gemba walks” and “go to the gemba” which are all about getting out of the office or conference room and physically going to where the issue is or the opportunity lies.

Now I’ll be honest. I don’t really care for the word or those phrases. Not because I don’t believe in the concepts (which I wholeheartedly do and that’s why we’re talking about it) but because early on the first times I heard them it kind of came across as condescending, almost lowering ourselves to venture out the the shop floor. I know that’s not what was meant, but it felt that way.

Anyway, back to Gemba.

I picked that for today’s episode because I think the concept is a real important one for any business and any problem solving endeavor especially.

The idea is that sometimes we can sit at our desk or in a room or talk over and over about something, maybe even with pictures, and find ourselves spinning our wheels or, even worse, going down the wrong path.

There is certainly a need for the desk and meeting work at times, but nothing takes the place of seeing the thing with your own eyes.

I’ve seen this several times just in the last week. And more often than not, there was something I was able to spot looking at it in person that I wouldn’t have even thought of if I was just sitting at my desk looking at a drawing.

I don’t know what your industry or product or service is, but look at it this way. Maybe for you, it could be the idea that you really need to put yourself in your customers’ shoes, almost as a stranger approaching your brand for the first time.

What do they encounter when they visit your website? Is it intuitive or confusing. Does it guide them where you want them to go? Why or why not? Spend some time checking it out.

Or maybe you’ve got quality issues with your product and you’re trying to find out where they originated. The more you can trace those steps in the process and identify potential issues the better. You can maybe do that remotely or walking through some document. But you will miss out on so much of what you’d observe if you were physically there watching it.

So, whatever issue your trying to solve or opportunity you’re trying to discuss, make sure you are devoting enough time to be where it’s created or to see from the customer’s side of things.

Let me know what this might look like for you. Shoot me an email at

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