Monday, December 28, 2009


Genchi Genbutsu (if it's important, go and see for yourself)

First-hand knowledge is always better.  There's no way we can get it for everything all the time, of course, but understanding, learning about or experiencing something first-hand eliminates all other biases, filters and interpretations that can cloud the real story, meaning or implication of what we're seeing - and what to do about it.

Genchi Genbutsu literally means "go and see for yourself" in Japanese, and is a philosophy espoused particularly well by Toyota executives to understand and improve a particular automotive production problem.  Rather than rely on reports or spreadsheets, these executives would go see the problem for themselves.  Yes, it's a bigger investment in time.  But it can often lead to better decision-making and results.

We will always need to rely on others to observe & report for us on a variety of things.  But think about what's most important to you - for yourself and particularly for your business.  Which things do you currently rely on others to observe, analyze and summarize?  Which of those things should you, instead, go and see for yourself?  Some samples:

Eat Your Own Dogfood:  Are you your own customer?  If you're a software manufacturer, do you use your own software directly?  Have you personally tried installing or upgrading?  This alone can lead to significant insights and prioritization of future product improvements, new features, etc.

Direct Customer Observation:  How often have you watched your customers use your products or services?  I'm not just talking about in a lab or focus group environment.  Go to their natural environment, and watch how they use it.  Ask questions about how they're using it, what they're trying to accomplish.  Observe directly how well it works, how it could be faster & easier, or how it could more directly solve the primary problem or objective.

Secret Shopping:  What are your competitors doing especially well?  How do they market and sell their products?  Don't just research it - experience it!  Become a customer (or at least a prospect) with your primary competitors.  Experience first-hand how they sell, how they onboard, how they service existing customers.   You'll quickly learn (first-hand) where they're strong and where they're weak.

Answer the Phones:  What would happen if every executive on your team spent one day a month answering customer service calls?  What would they hear and learn directly, and how would that impact how they felt about what customers need and want, and how the current product strategy addresses that?  What other direct customer interactions make sense for your business, and how do you get more managers to see & hear that for themselves?


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