By Kevin Meyer
Today's Wall Street Journal has a review of the National Geographic Channel's documentary "Giuliani's 9/11" which takes tells us about the events of that day through the eye's of New York's then mayor. What's front and center in the review and apparently in the documentary? Giuliani's decision to go to the gemba.
The mayor rushed to the scene—a decision that later drew criticism from those who thought he took an unnecessary risk and could have better managed the situation from a distance. "I have this theory about managing an emergency," Mr. Giuliani explains, "which is you have to see it. It's one thing for somebody to describe something to you; it's another thing to actually see it."
Bingo. Exactly why "go and see" is a key component of lean manufacturing. Really going to the gemba is not just biz-school MBWA jargon - it's seeing for yourself, asking questions, taking charge, and teaching others how to see what you see.
Their vehicle brought to a standstill by the sea of pedestrians fleeing the area, the mayor's team decided to travel the last several blocks on foot. What they saw there was beyond comprehension. "It would have been impossible for me to make decisions about this if I hadn't seen it. I'd have made all the wrong decisions. I wouldn't have realized how vast it was, wouldn't have realized how many resources we needed."
So how many of you still make key decisions from a conference room? What are you missing?