How do you make sure that you really understand any part of any business problem of your customers and potential customers? You go and see them and ask them key qualifying questions about their challenges and needs.
Then you align your services and products to answer those needs. That is the “Toyota Way”. If you do not have an answer, then you have an opportunity to create a solution from your findings.
A core principal of the Toyota Production System goes by the Japanese term genchi genbutsu, which roughly translates as a directive to " go and see for yourself”. Strategic business decisions are then based on firsthand knowledge, instead of reports from others.
To demonstrate this principle, a Toyota chief engineer drove a grueling 53,000 miles across the USA, Canada and Mexico in a Toyota Sienna minivan. This chief engineer was responsible for the design and development of a new model and oversaw the entire process from concept to production. He stopped in small towns and large cities to interview and observe real customers during their Sienna minivan experiences.
From those firsthand observations he discovered that although the parents and grandparents owned the minivan, “it is the kids who rule it”. By incorporating features aligned to these observations in the development of the next model of the Sienna minivan, he helped boost the 2004 model’s sales 60% over the 2003 model’s sales. (Eric Reis, The Lean Startup, Crown Business, 2011, p. 87)
Jeffery Liker, who has extensively documented the “Toyota Way” explains it this way: “In my Toyota interviews, when I asked what distinguishes the Toyota Way from other management approaches, the most common first response was genchi genbutsu – whether I was in manufacturing, product development, sales, distribution, or public affairs. You cannot be sure you really understand any part of any business problem unless you go and see for yourself firsthand.” (Jeffrey K. Liker, The Toyota Way. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2003, p.223).
In your business are you using the Toyota Way to understand your customer’s business problems before designing a product or service to answer their needs?
Confirming customer’s real needs by talking with them directly can drive sales more than guessing what a customer wants to buy.
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