Forest, Meet Trees

Get there by getting in the weeds

Review time. Regularly, we perform a "check" on our processes, make sure they’re working OK and tune up anything that may have experienced a performance slip. This time around, this improvement opportunity surfaced: Can QP article authors give final approval on their articles earlier, to prevent more edits and minor changes at the end of the magazine’s production process? Sounds good in theory, right? But when I really started thinking about this tune-up to our timeline, I realized that it wouldn’t mean editors were working on the original proofs any sooner, just that the authors would be providing feedback before articles were final, which would lead to different, but just-as-serious problems with multiple rounds of reviews.

Thinking through this, I had a renewed appreciation for getting at the basic facts of a situation, which so many quality tools help us do. In the case of gemba, this is defined as going where the action is. I love this concept: getting down to brass tacks, in the thick of it, some might even say "in the weeds."

But in the case of gemba, the weeds are where it’s at.

Big-picture, high-level strategic thinking is valuable, of course. But I would argue the detailed, consistent "work" at the most basic levels is just as critical to overall success. Someone has to produce, day-in and day-out, products that meet the highest-quality standards. Gemba walks, the improvement technique described in this month’s cover story, "Walk the Line," help connect leaders with the people actually producing the products.

By nature, people in any camp tend to get mired in "what they’ve always done" and fail to see the forest for the trees. Gemba walks clear the brush and let workers and leaders observe things in new ways by asking the tough questions. Give it a try. New perspectives can be illuminating.

This issue is packed with other ideas and information to get your spring off to a fresh start. "Inside Job" explains how a financial services firm assembled an internal team of consultants to facilitate change. The knowledge and internal relationships present among this diverse team helped the organization develop methods to maximize impact internally, and also with outside consultants that were necessary along the way. How could you leverage internal teams similarly?

Seiche Sanders

Seiche Sanders

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