Just like the messages whispered from child to child in a game of telephone, business insights become distorted and watered down as they travel.
The best leaders understand this. To mitigate it, they spend time on the front lines, directly observing employees, customers, and partners.
This gives them insights and context that improve decision-making and enhance problem-solving for their teams, customers, and the business.
The Japanese call this concept Genchi Genbutsu. "Go and see for yourself," in English.
Genchi Genbutsu emerged from the management principles of Taiichi Ohno and Eiji Toyoda, pioneers of the Toyota Production System (TPS), during the 1940s and 50s.
Toyoda designed TPS in response to the resource constraints Japan faced after World War II. TPS focused on maximizing efficiency, reducing waste, and improving productivity.
A core tenet of the TPS is that firsthand knowledge and experience are the most reliable sources of information for problem-solving and decision-making. Therefore managers should go and see for themselves.
Genchi Genbutsu derived from another Japanese concept called "Genba."
Genba refers to the actual place where business value is created; a factory production floor, a retail sales counter, or in the case of most modern software companies, a Zoom call.
Ohno drew circles with chalk on the Toyota production floor to indicate where observers should stand to watch certain manufacturing processes unfold.
Up close, it was possible to detect the nuances and issues inherent in these processes.
Genchi Genbutsu takes Genba a step further by emphasizing the importance of observing and understanding a situation in context rather than relying solely on reports, secondhand descriptions, or other proxies for reality.
It's why we use Gong and other call analytics software instead of relying on call notes.
It's why we use agile development to get software in front of users more often.
It's why, at one of my companies, our execs spent a half-day every quarter shadowing support and services team members.
It's why I attend as many sales and customer success calls as possible each month, and why I suggest you do the same.
Where do you need to go and see the processes for yourself?