Case Study: Business Performance & The 16 Habits of Lean Leaders

Part 3

Habit 10: The Habit of Building & Leading your Team

Genchi Genbutsu is much more than Go & See for yourself!

This is the third part of case study number four. Details of the case study can be found in part 1 and 2 which was posted in October 2020. This post should be read by all CEO and c-suite executives as it particularly relates to your role as the leader in the organisation or team.

Key take-Aways:

Habit 10, which is a team building Habit, The Habit of building and leading your team, contains several leadership lessons. These lessons will guide you in understanding the role of being a Continuous Improvement Leader, focusing on team building and at the same time being part of the team.

In this article, I focus on some of the less well known aspects of Genchi Genbutsu.

The 16 Habits of Lean Leaders is a tightly interwoven set of tools and competences, fundamentally derived from the TPS, Toyota Way and a contemplative approach to serving as a leader in any organisation.

Genchi Genbutsu finds itself as part of Habit number 10. Almost all literature on the subject of lean will describe Genchi Genbutsu as a key process driven approach to problem solving by collecting facts and data at the scene of the crime. Or more rightly put, the scene of the actual place of the work (Genba) performed or where the problem actually appears to be.

However, as you can imagine;

“The 16 Habits of Lean leaders is focused on building business performance by problem solving through people engagement”. Lumen Sapiens.

To this purpose, the following key points refer to the behavioural aspects of Genchi Genbutsu, which as you can appreciate are the core to the success of any leader, any business any advisor or trainer in the realm of lean, Operational Excellence or leadership coaching.

Any self-respecting CEO or director will hold regular, in many cases, daily performance stand-up meetings with the team by the white boards. These can be:

  • Production meetings,
  • S&OP meetings,
  • Project status meetings (better known, if performed correctly, Obeya project meetings),
  • Hoshin Kanri meetings,
  • Budget meetings,
  • Strategy meetings,
  • Culture change meetings and so on.

Very often, leaving aside the quality of the visual management which should be presented at these meetings, the quality of the discussions is profoundly weak.  Specific factual data is lacking and follow up on data, facts, problems, root-causes and counter measures is a classic example we find in many board room meetings, executive, senior, middle and lower management. Often, the leader of a meeting, often the CEO has to make a decision which is not based on facts. See one of my previous case studies on the Macbeth syndrome of CEO’s.

In this example, we start our Genchi Genbutsu initiative following one of the meetings above. Take a problem which was highlighted at the meetings. Decide that it needs a high priority status for your team or organisation.

In other words, escalate the problem which was brought up at the meeting to the realm of a Genchi Genbutsu problem solving exercise by leadership coaching.





Start to demonstrate the validation of your authority and leadership by going to the place of the work or the problem and finding out more, from the people as close to the problem as possible. Next, I will just highlight the key take-aways of what should be achieved at this Genba meeting. If you would like to know more or to learn this technique, please contact myself directly or the Institute.


  • Show your team you are escalating the problem by going yourself after the meeting to the Genba.. this way you are sending a clear signal that you really want to support them and that you are keen to see for yourself what is actually happening.
  • Don’t do this if you intend to vent your anger, frustration, malice or self-importance. It’s not about you being a bully, its about you learning to be a leader. Don’t go and look for culprits and the guilty ones. Pray that you don’t meet a Toyota sensei who will audit your leadership style. Then we might well be justified in pointing the finger just in disbelief in how just wrong you can be in your role!.
  • You are sending a very clear and motivational signal to the people at the work place, coal face, where the problem is, that the Boss values their work and their ideas, problems and wants to engage with them. Make sure you talk to them as a team member not as the CEO. Show respect, be kind and be humble. You will win their hearts and minds.
  • Take your top team with you to the place of the problem, ask them to pay careful attention and let the team operators explain things without their interruption. Make sure each of your top team members takes a pen and a note pad.
  • Do you remember the TV News presentations of the North Korean leader, Kim J., and how he has a team around him, taking notes of his every word, well a little bit like that, seriously.
  • Use your coaching skills to show your top team how to go about problem solving. Its highly likely that what you heard at the top team meeting in the office, probably most of your team has never been down to the production site, or to the project or client, to actually understand the problem. They don’t practice Genba.
  • Put on protective gloves, a mask and ask the operator to show you how to operate the machine, if you feel you can do this. This will rocket your credibility more than any MBA or BMW which you might own, seriously. This is what Genchi Genbutsu is about.
  • This is what True North Leadership is about.
  • Ask each top team member to follow up from this meeting at the Genba with a list of to do items to report during the following meetings.
  • Hold a short One Point Lesson – OPL, what did they learn, what would they do differently next time. See one of my previous posts on how to hold a OPL feedback meeting.

And now, the strawberry on the cake when it comes to Genchi Genbutsu.
This will blow away your understanding of Genchi Genbutsu, if you are not already blown away.. so here it is.



  • Genchi Genbutsu is there for you to verify the authenticity, knowledge and engagement of your direct reporting team. You will find that after 20 to 40 minutes on the production line, or at the clients, or in the project room, you have found out a lot more, regarding facts, data, problems, counter-measures than your top team were reporting at the daily stand up meetings.
  • It means they are simply not doing their job as a leader should be in today’s work environment, especially if you have an ounce of ambition of being a Continuous Improvement organisation!.
  • Next, if your team is smart and ambitious and you have done your job properly, without once even criticising them, then, there is a good chance some of them will learn from your example of what leadership is in a culture of coaching at problem solving.
  • Many of you are finalising your strategy or using Hoshin Kanri for 2021. Well, allow me to let you into a secret. The above points and approach are your Hoshin kanri coaching tips for being a better leader in 2021.
  • Don’t sacrifice the leader you could be for the one you are today.
  • Work on your contemplative skills from Habit 1, Hansei – self-reflection, to be a leader of virtuous habits not of vices full of malevolence, prejudice, short term thinking and self-importance. Employees are looking for these skills, competences and behaviours today from their leadership. Are you working on yours!
  • You will have built your authority not by the name tag status, for example, the CEO and the MBA you have and the BMW in the executive parking lot (I prefer my Aston Martin Rapid personally or my Jaguar MK2), but by how you have conducted a Genchi Genbutsu.




Can you see what has happened, here are a few words of learning:

  • Coaching by example. Go-See-Listen-Learn-Appreciate-Inspire-Engage. (in that order).
  • Building your authority not by your declarations and statements but by what you do.
  • Avoiding the Macbeth syndrome of making decisions not based on facts.
  • Develop your and the team Problem solving skills in practice, at the Genba.
  • Show respect to all employees, especially the operational employees.

“The key challenge to building exceptional organisations is the “black-hole” not in outer space but in the hearts and minds of leaders at all levels”- Lumen Sapiens.

Build you organisation by allowing your people to focus on structured problem solving.

What Toyota focuses on is “Developing People through Problem Solving”, with a great deal of support mechanisms around the word “support”.

In the case of this business, the support came from the 16 Habits.

I hope this case study has shown how this system works and why it works.

If you would like to know more, please contact me, Mark Forkun on: