Go Out and Gemba

I've always found one of the most evocative terms in the Toyota lexicon to be “gemba” ----the real place, or as it has more poetically been translated, “the place where truth will be found.”  The word already implies that you may have preconceived notions of what the truth is and need a reality check. What better way to define the workplace, whether that's a laboratory or a factory?

We’re hearing more from pharma executives who are learning the importance of connecting to workplace reality and the whole concept of “servant leadership,” and delegating decisions to those who are closest to the process.  These managers are not afraid of, and actually welcome, “push back” from team members.

I spoke with three of this new breed of manager at Pearl River a few weeks ago (and will post articles and some print and video interviews pending corporate review). They are required to be present on the floor and to know about issues, and empower manufacturing staff to discover the best solutions to problems that crop up…in fact, this type of thing has become a performance metric, with its own  new motto “go out and gemba,” that managers at any firm could adopt as a mantra.  And this approach appears to flow from the top down. 

Included are simple features such as daily pre-shift huddles involving everyone, across functions and levels, on the floor, with focus areas, issues and metrics for the given shift written on a white board for all to see. Simple, so simple, and yet so effective.

Creating and sustaining this type of leadership and culture demands continuous training and continuous improvement, and a redeployment of resources. 

Here’s Wyeth’s view on how managers spend their time in most pharma companies today vs. how they will have to spend that time in the future

How close are you?

Pharma Management for Lean

                                        NOW         GOAL
Administrative                     57%           10%    
Performance management   26%            20%
Continuous improvement     13%            35%
Developing talent                  4%           35%

More reasons to hope that the positive change is sustained, and that the Wy-Phi merger does not steam roll the energy and positive cultural change that has already taken place within Wyeth, at Pearl River and all its facilities. We’ll be writing about some of this in our end-of-year issue. In the meantime, here are two 'feel good' videos with brief sound bite interviews with employees from all ranks of the organization----one for the company as a whole, the other for Pearl River. (and here's a soundtrack to play in your mind...viva manufacturing)