Blindsided by Nagging Problems? Simply Looking is the Key

Picture of crazy eyed glasses inviting you to change your glasses to see things differently
The first in a two part post. Second part is linked at end of post.

​The problem with using foreign words is that we tend to invest them with something magical, putting them out of our reach, or into the hands of paid experts, even when the concept is really very simple.

Gemba is a Japanese word meaning “the real place,” "where the action is" for example, and "Kaizen" is simply Continual Improvement. (A technical term introduced to the Japanese by Dr. Edwards Deming in 1950, which they translated as Kaizen)

You can't really make things any better unless you go to where the "things" are done: where the actions is. The essence of Gemba Jitsu!

The idea is to see things as if for the first time. When you see things for the first time you see them clearly, without preconceptions, unburdened by what has happened, and without any clever ideas as to what is happening, or why: we simply see. Think about it. Remember for yourself the first time you came on the job and how much more observant you were than now, when you have had time to create mental models.

SimplyLooking™ IS

The art of clearing your mind to bypass habits and biases, to be able to simply looking where the action is, on the workfloor or sales floor or where ever the work of adding value for customers is really done. 

Danger from Within

Portrait of will rogers from wikicommons
Will RogersAmerican Humorist

It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so.

The biggest danger is thinking you see, when you don't, or seeing things you think are there, but aren't. This is because we think using two very different thinking systems: System One and System Two. (Daniel Kahnemann won the Nobel for this work, BTW...)

System One

System one is the ability to create mental models, so that we don't have to figure everything out every time, and can function without exhausting ourselves. Think of system one as running on automatic. Imagine having to learn to drive from scratch every time you entered a car. Scary. When you enter a room, and turn the lights on, you are on automatic, as you have done it many times before. We make a mental model, then we simply follow it. It's economic. It makes life bearable. But, it can open you up for trouble: what if some idiot remodels the room and didn't put the switch back, leaving the wires exposed, or worse, doesn't put the switch back in the same place?

System Two... ouch!​

The grind you feel when you reach for a light switch in a new hotel room and it isn't where it usually is: that discomfort, standing in the dark, tired, with all your suitcases, and having to stop and think it through slowly, is the earmark of System Two. Remember when you had to study in school, and couldn't just bluff your way through? Most people don't like that feeling so much, including me. We would rather be the hare than the tortoise.

Another way to look at it is Fast Mind (System One)/ Slow Mind (System Two). Worst part is only slow mind is really logical: fast mind is associo-logical, working in your head, detached from reality, creating associations that feel logical, and models that may not be true. It thinks like this: "every insect I have seen so far flies, so all insects fly." Oh really? Works until you are infested with beetles.   (wikianswers)

The only way to really engage to reason your way through a problem is by using Slow Mind: System Two.

Is our only choice choice grinding discomfort or breezy self-deception?

No! We can bypass both systems, in a kind of meditative way, by learning how to simplyLook™, observing without judgement, then drawing what is se​en, what I call mapping,  then discussing what was mapped with those who do the work on the workfloor where the action is.

Real Life Example:​

I was walking with a production manager at a clients. He wanted to show me the new charts he had created. As we walked through the production room I noticed waste piling up on the floors, machines out of position, dangerously placed in traffic zones, spills on the floor, and people being overwhelmed by the speed of the feeder, unable to keep up: an ongoing problem of pacing we had addressed a number of times before.

When we got to the office I asked him how things were going, and he said great. They had solved the problem of waste on the floor, the supervisor had the pacing problem under control, and they were doing a much better job with keeping the traffic lanes open.

Seeing this as a learning opportunity, I suggested we do a little simply looking. To prepare, we took deep breaths, closed our eyes and calmed our minds by sensing from the right foot up to the shoulder and down from the left shoulder to the left foot. We opened our eyes, went to the workfloor, and put our focus into a wide view and began simply looking.

Within a few moments he saw all the things I had seen, and while he was ready to run over and dress down the supervisor, I then mentioned to him that he had walked right by them earlier, but I had seen them because I hadn't been there in a while. I pointed out he wasn't able to see them until he stopped and did SimplyLooking™, so I suggested he use it as a learning opportunity, and without saying anything, invite the supervisor over to join us, show him the simple exercises to prepare, and see what happens...


So what would be ways to express the same meaning in straight forward english?

For GEMBA think: "Where the action is,” as in, where work is done, as in: workfloor, sales floor, or clients place of work or anywhere else a service is delivered, or a product is actually made, as opposed to the administrative or executive office. That explains the song, eh? 

BETTER IS BETTER (Thanks Ben Fhala) For KAIZEN think: "Make Better." So the Japanese took a fancy foreign term they learned from that dernfangled American Dr. Deming, Continual Improvement, and gave it a simple Japanese version Kaizen: literally means make better. Kaizen then devolved into a fancy foreign term in the US and Europe that half the people who use it think of as some kind of resource intensive improvement "happening." In practice, Kaizen means making things better in baby steps through Continual Improvement. I like Make Better better.​

For GEMBA GEMBETSU  think nothing more magical than: go and see for yourself where the action is: where things really happen. I like to say, go to where the action is and simply look, and the technique I teach to do this I call SimplyLooking™.​

SimplyLooking™, in its Purest Form Means:

  • Learning how to clear your mind and keep it that way, to bypass habitual thinking and seeing.
  • Going to where the work is done
  • "Mapping" or drawing what you see in simple diagrams
  • Discussing those diagrams with the people who do the work, on the workfloor, looking for ways to make it better.
​I will share the steps that work for me to do this and some really swell examples next week... CLICK HERE

Master SimplyLooking™

Coming Soon, and places are filling fast! Don't miss out on a once in a lifetime opportunity! Take the 5 day SimplyLooking Challenge for only $99. Once released the price will be $249! Learn directly from Dan to master the skill of seeing for yourself how to make things better, step by step, over 5 consecutive days. Put yourself on the waiting list now to reserve the special price. You will be notified when the challenge begins! Successfully complete the challenge and get a certificate.

About the Author

Dan Strongin works with medium to small companies, helping them master the art and science of managing.

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