Go See

We know managers in LeSS organizations that have given up their separate office (to teams, as a workshop room) and by sitting directly with the developers, have been very surprised to see and learn what’s really going on, even though they have been with their group for years.


Go See is about actually understanding what is happening in the organization. The realization that decisions based on indirect information such as reports and presentations are likely not to be the best decisions you made. But decisions based on actually going and seeing and understanding the real situation at hand are likely to be much more informed.

Go See Understand is about better decisions and understanding the actual work and figuring out how to teach and help the people doing the work. It is strongly related to teaching problem solving

Go See origin - Toyota

Go to the source [the place of real value work—gemba] to find the facts to make correct decisions, build consensus, and achieve goals at our best speed. [Toyota01]

Go See is a principle and practice not found in many management cultures. But in the internal Toyota Way 2001 it is highlighted as a primary factor for success in continuous improvement. (In Japanese the Toyota term is genchi genbutsu) Go See shows up repeatedly in Toyota manager quotes, in Toyota culture and habits [LH08], and in Toyota-internal education on the Toyota Way (lean thinking).

What does it mean to practice Go See? That people, especially managers—including senior managers—don’t spend all their time in offices and meeting rooms, and don’t receive all their information via meetings, reports, email, and reporting tools. Rather, to know what is really going on and help improve (by eliminating the distortion that comes from indirect information), managers frequently go to the place of real work, stay there, and see and understand for themselves. In an interview, Toyota’s chief engineer quoted Taiichi Ohno, who insisted on managers practicing Go See at gemba:

Don’t look with your eyes, look with your feet… people who only look at the numbers are the worst of all. [Hayashi08]

Go See at gemba. What and where is gemba? Gemba does not mean the place of supporting or secondary work of accounting and so on, but the value-adding work that directly creates or delivers the product or service that the paying customer cares about. For example, the place where people are writing code, answering customer questions, etc. And gemba is not in a meeting room or office near the workers!

An example of Go See is for managers to sit for meaningful time with software developers while they are doing the work of creating code, with the aim of understanding problems and opportunities to improve, building trust, and helping.

What Go See is not

Go See is not the same as “management by walking around.” Walking around only gives superficial understanding. Go See takes time.

Go See is also not micro-management. With Go See, the manager doesn’t go and observe the real place of work and make decisions about how the workers should work. That would be micro-management. Instead he would Go See and query why work is done that way with the purpose to truly understand and learn about how the work is done. When he sees an opportunity to help the worker in becoming better at his job, then he helps the worker but without commanding him to work differently, but instead by helping him solve a problem together. The assumption is that the worker can best do his own job and we want improvements to come from him. However, the better understanding of the real place enables the manager to have a better big picture more informed by the reality.