Sharing, a two-way street

Midnight Delhi airport. The year 2017 is only a few weeks old when I am at the starting point of an exciting time under the flag of Women on Wings. I feel privileged to be in that position. Knowledge sharing is not just sharing your knowledge (giving), it is also an opportunity to gain knowledge and new insights. Sharing, it is a two way street. If you are open to it, there is so much to gain. Driving through the night in foggy (or smoggy) Delhi with its familiar smells and sounds, feels like coming home.
Ah, I can go again!

Go to the Gemba
Later that day I met Shashank, member of the Indian Women on Wings team, who will be my traveling companion this time. We resume with our preparations for the upcoming two working visits, with business partners EcoAd and GVK. Both would like to take the next step and look for growth in volume of production.

One of the business partners hesitates a little bit to grant our request to go to the place where it all happens. As they say in Japan, ‘Go to the Gemba’; the place where it happens, or in business language the place where the value creation takes place.

The Gemba in this case is located quite far from the office of GVK, nearly a half-day drive. We do realize that our request has quite some impact for the business partner. It will mean that they have to invest one full day with two men, only for driving us to the Gemba and back. This is for the relatively small partner quite a huge investment. It seems more efficient to drive directly to the office and start there with analyzing and brainstorming. However, our insistence is successful; we went to the Gemba. It was valuable to see the process of sweet oranges collection from the orchard which brought a lot of understanding and also raised many new questions.

As Fujio Cho, a Japanese well know person in the world of Lean, pointed out; going to the Gemba is not intended to observe and judge. It’s all about asking the ‘Why’s’, allowing all involved to become more aware of the reason why an activity takes place. Sometimes the why is based on a paradigm, which offers an opportunity for a break through.

The somewhat underexposed aspect of asking the ‘why’, and also the most difficult part, is to have a completely open mind and having the sincere and respectful interest into the ‘why’ of an activity or motive. It is not obvious to be able to listen without rating or judging the answers based on your own values as a reference. Rating or judging is an automatic process; it helps us to make choices in life.
It becomes even more difficult when the core values of the environment in which you are, differs very much from your own core “value-system”. Then it can be really difficult to let your own reference disappear and having a completely open mind when listening to the explanation of the ‘why’.

Unexpected Pay off
Of course, we all do our upmost best to have an open minded attitude and I’m probably the only one who faces many times difficulties, thinking afterwards … .mmm should have done better. But, if there’s someone who has trouble here too … don’t worry, you’re not alone. It can be a struggle to be really open-minded.
We all make mistakes, a wonderful tapping point for learning. My best moments arose when I could really empathize with the values of the other one. Although empathizing is not the same as agreeing, it did lead sometimes to questioning the almost hidden feeling in the back of my mind that automatically appreciated my values higher than those of the other. Exploring it can lead to an unexpected pay off!

It’s been an amazing experience working with EcoAd and GVK.
Ah, when may I go again!

Joost Theunis
Expert at Women on Wings

(Go to the) GEMBA, is one of the pillars of the philosophy of LEAN.
LEAN is a widely propagated improvement philosophy well known in Production Environments