Gemba, Lean and Continuous Improvement

The best place for a meeting… is on the roof!

So where is the most effective place to have a meeting?

At the process, point of discussion, or the place that is most effective at visualizing your point of view, problem, or solution.

After only a couple of years of operation of a new automotive paint shop, the engineering team brought a capital project to me for approval to replace the cooling tower on the roof.  It had basically rusted out.  Without it we could not operate the paint shop.  The cost of the project was $3.5M and it was not budgeted.  Since it was out of budget, we had to request additional funding from the overall capital “emergency” fund which subsequently needed the President’s approval.  After I had reviewed and approved, I requested the engineer to schedule the review with the President as soon as possible and to schedule it on the roof of the plant.  He looked at me and said “pardon?”.  I repeated a-c-4-1446676-640x480(1)myself.  He said there was no way the President would go up on the roof.  I told him to schedule the meeting and I would look after getting the President to the roof.

Given that the existing unit was only 3 years old, I was concerned that we would be told to patch it up somehow.  There was no way that would have worked.  We would then need to come back again with additional quotes, justifications, reasons why fixing it would not work, or we would have to attempt to repair it.  We didn’t have this kind of time.  Sure, pictures might have worked, but after seeing the pictures and the actual condition myself, there was no comparison.  Within a couple of minutes of the President being on the roof and seeing the actual condition he said “where do I sign”.

So why is it so many meetings to discuss problems and proposals are scheduled in meeting rooms or offices?   Get out on the floor, the process, or the place that is most effective at visualizing your point of view, problem, or solution.

A picture may be worth a 1,000 words, but seeing is believing!

The saying “seeing is believing” is very accurate and you can learn a lot by going and seeing.  It gives you the opportunity to see or tell the real story.  It’s a lot more difficult to exaggerate or downplay something when everyone involved sees the same thing.  Additional eyes may also see different things that otherwise would go unnoticed.

As a leader have you ever had someone on your team advise you of a problem and then tell you everything is under control or “it’s not that bad”?  Later it blows up on you and you wonder what the heck just happened.  Or the opposite, where the “sky is falling” and you push the defcom5 button only to find out it was really nothing at all?  Alternatively, maybe you have tried to get something approved that was absolutely necessary and the need was obvious to you, but your boss sent you away multiple times to answer questions or get more data?  Now, how different would things have been had you gone to the location to see the specific problem or topic of discussion?

Whether it’s a process, piece of equipment, software, administrative function, or procedure, go & see it with your own eyes.  Or if you are the one making the proposal, explaining the problem, or making the case, take the team to the best location that supports your point of view and position on the subject matter.

So get out of the conference room and go to the roof!  Go and See!


3 thoughts on “The best place for a meeting… is on the roof!”

  1. Really enjoy your posts, Glenn. Your common sense approach to leadership and problem solving is applicable to all managers, and I will be utilizing some of your strategies with my team.


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