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GEMBA and the Ohno Circle

To really understand something at work, be observant.

“Ohno Circle” – Taiichi Ohno (1912-1990) was the legendary leader of Toyota, considered by many to be the main developer of the production and management system of the Japanese automaker that gave rise to the lean system.

Ohno marked a circle on the ground at some point and ordered his disciples to stay inside the circle doing only one thing for hours: observing what happened in the factory at a certain point of production.Then, after a long time, he would come back and make several inquiries about what they had observed and what they had learned, about what could improve the processes they witnessed.

Although simple and even prosaic, this practice of the “Ohno circle” contains a profound meaning. Whoever stood in the circle and sharpened the perception of what was happening in the factory learned the “first impression” about a problem, or even about a possible solution. And that, in order to understand something of truth, it is necessary to make a much deeper observation on the facts. You have to go far beyond taking a quick look. You have to know much more.

This simple practice brings in itself some deeper elements. You need to always get facts and datas.It is fundamental to talk to people involved in the problem. It is necessary to see and analyze the various points of the question. Observe, observe, observe and observe. With critical eyes. And then, just so, perhaps, is that one begins to really understand the problem, what will be the first step to find the root cause and thus solve the question forever.As you can see, it is not something that is achieved in a “first impression.”

This lesson of the “circle of Ohno” is one of the foundations of the practice of “genchi genbutsu”, a Japanese term meaning “go wherever things happen”, right there in the place where everything is done, products and services, whether in a factory, an office, a point of sale, or anywhere else you want to create value.

It is necessary to see, but, above all, “to see and see”, which means, in advance, to observe with patience, time and dedication. Of course, this goes against a current strong corporate culture that preaches speed in everything: in decisions, in projects, in solutions. And that ends up generating a lot of superficiality.It is necessary to see, but, above all, “knowing how to look and see”, which means, in advance, to observe with patience, time and dedication. Of course, this goes against a current strong corporate culture that preaches speed in everything: in decisions, in projects, in solutions. And that ends up generating a lot of superficiality.

When we are on the factory floor observing or making a daily visit, several events occur at the same time and we generally lose focus of the real reason we are in the gemba. A simple and efficient application applied by Ohno, as described in the text above, helps to get a look and a differentiated attention of the factory floor: “Observe and answer why? ¨, we are talking about the circle of Ohno. Which consists of the drawing of a circle near the area that will be studied or observed.

Source: Edson Miranda da Silva – Manager of Quality, Productivity and Sustainability.

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