Comparison and alignment of the Japanese business philosophy "Genchi Genbutsu" (go and see for yourself) with Jeff Bezos's "It's Always Day 1" philosophy, highlighting how these concepts can help businesses remain agile, responsive, and customer-focused.
Genchi Genbutsu, Japanese for "go and see for yourself," originated from the Toyota Production System—an influential manufacturing approach that values efficiency, quality, and ongoing refinement.
Applied to thinking on customer-centricity this principle of "real location, real thing," resonated with me when writing about Bezos Relentlessly Being Customer-centric
Both emphasize a hands-on, close-to-the-ground approach to problem-solving and decision-making. Both emphasize the importance of being deeply connected to the realities of the customer experience. And both advocate for continuous improvement and innovation.
Genchi Genbutsu as a part of Lean philosophy though is applied to achieve the larger goal of waste reduction and value creation in manufacturing processes. In contrast, Bezos's "Day 1" philosophy is a broader framework of customer-centricity that guides the overall mindset of a business, from customer obsession to decision-making speed.
Imagine you're an executive and you've just received a report about a decline in customer growth. According to the principle of Genchi Genbutsu, instead of just relying on the report, you would go directly to the source of the data.
This might mean you'll talk to customers, talk to customer service representatives to understand common complaints, or observe the process customers go through when using your product or service. The goal here is to understand the problem in a real, concrete way rather than through indirect measures or proxies. Having empathy and trying to walk in your customers shoes.
This sounds very much like an Amazon under Jeff Bezos's leadership and hence let’s explore if and how the principles of Genchi Genbutsu manifest with a "It's Always Day 1" philosophy:
Embracing True Customer Obsession
Genchi Genbutsu's principle of going to the source to gain a true understanding aligns well with Bezos's "True Customer Obsession." Genchi Genbutsu calls to ground decision-making in the realities of the "shop floor."
In case of Bezos's emphasis on customer obsession, the "shop floor" is the customer experience. The key to understanding customers' needs is to 'go and see'—observe their behavior, listen to their feedback, and immerse in their experience.
By striving to understand the customer's needs and desires at a granular level, you can ensure that your business is truly meeting customer demands and your services align with actual customer demands instead of abstract proxies.
Genchi Genbutsu and Resist Proxies
Genchi Genbutsu advises against depending solely on data or reports—essentially proxies—to understand a situation. Genchi Genbutsu encourages decision-makers to observe and understand problems firsthand, rather than relying on indirect measures.
This perspective aligns perfectly with Bezos's advice to resist proxies. Both philosophies advocate for a firsthand experience or intermediaries and a direct, engaged approach to understanding and addressing issues.
High-Velocity Decision Making
Genchi Genbutsu's emphasis on understanding the situation firsthand can lead to more informed, directly on-the-ground decision-making.
The Genchi Genbutsu approach aligns well with Bezos's emphasis on high-velocity decision making. Both principles recognize the value of quick, informed action in dynamic environments #VUCA.
By gaining direct insights, you as a decision-maker can make faster, more effective decisions, just like Bezos.
In summary, both Genchi Genbutsu and "It's Always Day 1" principles advocate for a hands-on, real-world approach to problem-solving and decision-making. They help businesses remain agile, responsive, and highly attuned to their customers' needs.
Outlook: Process Quality Thinking vs VUCA Leadership
While they both champion direct observation and prompt, informed decision-making, they serve distinct purposes. Bezos's "Day 1" philosophy acts as a fundamental guiding principle that informs Amazon's entire business approach, whereas Genchi Genbutsu is a specific technique used to identify and eliminate waste in distinct processes. This technique contributes to the broader Lean objective of creating streamlined, efficient operations.
This is insofar interesting to keep in mind when contrasting the Lean Startup Methodology with other approaches particularly those designed to handle complex leadership situations i.e., military operations where decisions can be a matter of “to be or not to be”.
The Lean philosophy originates from managing manufacturing processes and quality control, while models like the OODA (Observe, Orient, Decide, and Act) loop originate from decision-making and action-taking in volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous (VUCA) environments.