How the West was lost #2

The first article on this subject was a bit short and I would like to give some more background and detail. Before 1900 there was not much theory or anything about management or leadership, the only large institutions known in the West were the royal courts, the military and the Catholic church – all quite top-heavy.

The late 1800s in the US were characterized by a proliferation of industrial robber barons, exploiting every man and his dog. The situation had been the same 75 years earlier in the UK, famously described for example in Charles Dickens’ writings. But many industrialists were not like that and took social responsibility for employees and society to some extent.

The first two thirds of the 20th century represented the golden age of American business including a fairly enlightened leadership style, that took a sad turn for the worse at the end of the century, ending in the rise of the Imperial CEO. We cover the story here:
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How the West was lost

puritan-gift-1-728The institutions in Western society are in a deep leadership crisis. The way governments, organizations and businesses manage their affairs obviously does not work in a sustainable way. An erosion of mutual trust is in progress these years and a managerial totalitarianism is in full development. This series of articles explores the background, the consequences and a plausible way forward.

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The Challenge


Gemba – the real place in Japanese

Leadership in the 21st century is challenged. Have you ever had the experience of having to navigate the rapids of a complex project or initiative? How do you make sense of all the data thrown at you? How do you decide, what the most important thing to do now, is? How do you keep an eye on the results, you get? Do they match what you set out to accomplish? Is there a need to pivot and change direction quickly?

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Updated Agile Lean library

We are always looking out for new interesting write-ups, posts or video clips that explains different aspects of Lean, Agile, Scrum, Kanban – you name it.

On our site we have an Agile Lean Library, check it out here…

Featured content:

Amy Edmondson

We would like to recommend especially the by now famous article by professor Amy Edmonson:

“the competitive imperative of learning”, read more here…

Explanation of Gemba


Gemba in Japanese

Gemba in it’s original Japanese meaning means “The Real Place”. In business the term is often used in contexts of decision making or improvement, taken to mean the place where the value is found.
You can find examples of the original Japanese term translated Gemba or Genba the first one is more common, the second probably more correct from a pronunciation point of view.

Gemba can also be understood in context of “san gen shugi” (Three real philosophy). The three philosophies are:

  • The Real Place. (The “in-real-life” way of be present rather than the virtual reality.)
  • The Real Thing. (The real thing rather than a picture.)
  • Realistic Action. (Making plans practical instead of idealistic plans.)

This is also called the “looser” translation of Gemba.

The term Gemba also reappears in the term “Gemba Kaizen” which is used in Japanese process improvement initiatives. This is about finding improvements “on the floor”, so the collaboration between leader and employees is bigger and more valuable.

In quality management, Gemba in relation to Lean is for the leader to be present “on the floor”, like “Gemba Kaizen”. So if a problem occurs, the leader will be present and therefore must try to get the full understanding of the impact of the problem using all whats needed to gather and process the data.