Sometimes, as the saying goes, seeing is believing. And, so are touching, smelling, hearing and tasting.
You and I take in things differently when we use our senses. Things we might not otherwise take in when we filter and become indirect. When we’re first-hand, we’re more liable to pick up on the subtle, the nuanced, the energetic and so on.
The Japanese and others inspired by W. Edwards Deming call this genchi genbutsu. Or, to go and see the source, to the place where value is added.
Case in point
I was reminded of this the other day when I saw a picture of Thomas Jefferson’s spyglass.
Mr. Jefferson was a technophile. He loved gadgets. His homestead is full of devices (many of his own invention) to make farming, writing, music, architecture, sitting, sleeping, cooking, dining and a bunch of other interests of his easier, more sharable and, well, better.
Despite his love for the high tech, TJ knew that there was no substitute for first-hand observation. Provided he had the time, for example, he would make the journey to the University of Virginia under construction on the other side of Charlottesville, a couple of miles to his west. He knew the importance, as Deming would later teach us, of gemba.
Life, however, didn’t always allow him to go and see for himself. That’s when The Sage walked outside to where he could get a clear view to the west, put his spyglass to his eye and took a look.
True, if Jefferson had had satellite and computer and digital technology available to him, I’m sure he would have set up a Web cam or IM’ed the construction foreman. It would be better than nothing.
Yet, if filtered technology were the only way he experienced the construction of the Rotunda and its surroundings, imagine how different it would be today. I don’t believe he would have been pleased. Neither would we.
So, get up. Go see a client, where they work. Take only a pen and paper (if that) with you. Ask questions. Listen carefully. Afterward, write and send your client a personal note, on paper in your own hand.
Tell me if you notice anything different.