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  • Writer's pictureStephanie Hill

Typewriter Gemba

Lean has a practice of Going to the Gemba to see where people do work to create value. I have always viewed the benefits as observation, interaction, and analysis.

It was not until an incident with my son’s typewriter that had me adding “understanding” to that list.

Isaac decided to buy a used typewriter. Of course, when you buy a used typewriter, you inevitably need to buy new ink ribbon. So, we bought one.

While out, I received a phone call from Isaac. He said he had loaded the ribbon but was frustrated because, “Sometimes it types, and sometimes, it’s handwriting.”

I absolutely understood the problem. He must have hit a script font key on the typewriter!

Later, I watched him type. The ribbon was not staying threaded where the keys were hitting. So, Isaac’s paper had a couple of words on it, and then he had written the rest in ink (“handwriting”). There was not even a font key! I was wrong.

Misunderstanding Isaac’s words had me thinking of the benefits of going to the Gemba. Words convey a different message from one person to the

next. We can hear someone tell us their process, but until we see them do the work, we never will fully comprehend what they do.

Lean practitioners, why do YOU go to the Gemba?

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