Genchi gembutsu. It’s a term I heard fairly often during my time in the Great Midwestern Sedan Factory and it means, more or less, “Go look at the issue.” In the years since, I’ve often heard “Agile coaches” and “Scrum masters” in IT talk about “Gemba Walks,” which are supposed to be the same thing. The problem is that software development is nothing like a factory floor, system administration even less so, and if I have to hear one more dimwitted IBM consultant with a two-year DeVry degree lecturing me about “how Japanese manufacturers do things” I’m going to drag said consultant into the paint booth at Marysville and let him drown in whatever shade of grey is being indifferently sprayed on the cars that day. It’s cargo culture at its most pathetic, garnished with a sprig of racism.
Yet there is more than enough truth in the original application of genchi gembutsu. If you’re hearing about a problem on the factory floor, don’t waste time talking about it in the office. Go to the place and look at the problem. Until you do that, you’re just guessing.
It was with that concept in mind that I borrowed a three-row CUV recently for a 1,300-mile trip around the Midwest. Over and over again I’ve decried the modern fetish for massive unibody crossovers, but rarely have I driven one for more than a few miles at a time. This seemed like a good time to “go to the place” and “look at the problem.” I took this vehicle and tested it on its ability to substitute for vehicles both smaller and larger. A week later, I remain shaken, if not stirred, by the experience.
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