Home > The Lean Post> What do effective leaders actually do every day? GTS4

What do effective leaders actually do every day? GTS4

by Tracey Richardson
August 2, 2013

What do effective leaders actually do every day? GTS4

by Tracey Richardson
August 2, 2013 | Comments (14)

I'm often asked: "What should our leaders actually do in a Lean culture"? People want to know specific actions to guide their activities. They want a "recipe" to follow. Some folks want to wave a magic wand that suddenly transforms everything. Wouldn't it be great if anything were so easy?

In reality, Lean has to be lived, felt, breathed, seen, and experienced. It must be reinforced by senior leaders who walk the walk and set high expectations for team members. When I was at Toyota, the Japanese trainers commonly used the word "behave." At first, this sounded like the kind of directions we were given as kids in school, but when I thought more deeply about it, I realized they were speaking about particular behaviors. Behaviors and actions that created good habits, developed the character of team members, and fostered a learning culture.

So when I am asked about leadership and responsibility, I reply that lean leadership is a way of doing business, not simply a process to "think" through or try on for size. I call this idea (which really is a way to remember key behaviors and actions) "GTS4" (GTS to the fourth power)". What does it mean? Here are the four steps involved in the GTS thinking process:

Go to See + Grasp the Situation + Get to Solution + Get to Standard = GTS4

The starting point for any lean thinking activity (and the beginning of the PDCA process) is Go To See (GTS), also known as Go To the Source (GTS). This habit is hard to develop, since we tend to rely on assumptions formed from our experience or from what someone has told us. My Japanese trainers would often say, "Please! Go Looking!" They may have known just a minimal amount of English, but we always knew what they meant. When I visit the gemba with clients they usually struggle to answer my questions because they lack the facts—the measurable data to work with. Instead, they have assumptions. It is only when we GO SEE and talk with the people who do the work every day that we can uncover the truth of what is really going on.

Why GTS4? Going to see is just the beginning. Once we GO SEE, we must then Grasp The Situation. We do this by asking the right questions! Let's start with the three most essential questions a company and its leaders (at every level) should be asking themselves:

  • What should be happening?
  • What is currently happening?
  • What is your measurable (gap) between the two above?

The first question is aimed at defining the ideal state, or standard. The second question defines your current state. Consider your problem as the gap between these two conditions. This type of "thinking" is really the first step in framing a problem in the Plan-Do-Check-Action (PDCA) process. In this clarifying the problem step, it is essential that you have a measurable "gap". This enables the problem owner to see a measurable difference once the process is defined, root cause(s) found, and countermeasure(s) implemented. So the answers to these two questions should always be quantified! For example, this visual shows the Ideal-Current-Gap:

The Gap

This gives us a $21 gap we can begin to break down and ask more questions about!

Most companies I work with (even ones you'd think should know!) can't answer those three questions. As a result they have difficulty framing a problem as a simple gap between what should be happening and what is actually happening because the measurability just isn't being tracked at the process.

I was raised with this thinking at Toyota, so these questions feel natural to me. But helping others develop this kind of thinking is a challenge. Too many leaders are too busy running around trying to fight fires or make fixes based on loose assumptions. This type of problem solving is weak at best, and surely not repeatable for long-term sustainability.

The next GTS is to Get to the Solution. If you have properly grasped the situation then this leads you to ask further questions like: What are the processes that address the gap? Then we look for the places, blocks, bottlenecks or "points of occurrences" within processes that help us understand root causes and finally, countermeasures. As mentioned above, this is PDCA. If we are able to complete this process by practicing the last GTS, and our countermeasures are effective, then we want to proceed to the fourth and final step: Get to Standard.

Knowing what to do as a leader can feel like an unwieldy question. But consider GTS4. It's not easy, but it is fairly simple. The challenge is less a matter of being lean than it is asking ourselves if we are really practicing lean thinking—a way of thinking that starts by going to see, grasping the situation, getting to a solution, and ultimately, getting to a standard. It won't feel natural at first, but it can be learned!

The views expressed in this post do not necessarily represent the views or policies of The Lean Enterprise Institute.
Keywords:  gemba,  leadership,  management
Search Posts:
Lean Problem Solving
Mike Kobashi, Pascal Dennis, Sammy Obara, Tom Shuker & Tracey Richardson
Managing to Learn: The Use of the A3 Management Process
David Verble, Eric Ethington, Ernie Richardson, John Y. Shook, Mark Reich & Tracey Richardson
Lean Thinking, 2nd Edition
By James P. Womack and Daniel T. Jones
Was this post... Click all that apply
HELPFUL INTERESTING INSPIRING ACCURATE
136 people say YES
112 people say YES
95 people say YES
79 people say YES
Related Posts
14 Comments | Post a Comment
William August 02, 2013
1 Person AGREES with this comment

Thanks Tracey,


This is very insightful!


I wish it was that easy to put into practrice.


I personally need to study more about the GTS





Reply »

Tracey Richardson August 03, 2013
Hi William,

I tend to call it "deceptively simple".  In it's essence it's a set of actions we can do quite easily.  It's more the discipline and accountability organizations put on their leadership to practice these steps that can be the challenge.


That just comes with time and begin to weave it into our daily work by just going and seeing then build upon that.   One step at a time.  Thanks for sharing your comments!!     


Reply »

Mark Graban August 02, 2013
3 People AGREE with this comment

Great stuff, Tracey. I love the GS^4 approach.

It's really hard, sometimes, to get people to give a clearly stated problem statement.

"We want to do Lean."

If you ask what the problem is - what should be happening, what is actually happening, and what gap there is, they sometimes can't give a really good answer. That's the first place to start.

This approach works with really high-level problems... instead of jumping to a high-level solution, they need to understand their problem first.

Reply »

Tracey Richardson August 03, 2013
I agree Mark, the problem statement is often the countermeasure or outcome statement organizations are looking for, so the problem is never correctly defined in order to begin to ask the right questions.

  This simple approach can assist in framing what is the problem(s) we are experiencing because we arent "doing Lean".   Reversing the question. 


Good comment Mark, thanks for sharing and spot on.!!  


Reply »

John DiNicolantonio August 04, 2013
1 Person AGREES with this comment
Tracey, great thought provoking simple post.  The Go and See part is so important.  When you can see the problem happen it even makes solving the problem with point of cause, root cause and solution being must easier.  So the time spent observing, talking with the people and seeing first hand can never be stressed enough.  It only becomes habit by practicing.  We all then start to feel and understand the benefit of standardizing- creating the basis for the next improvement. Thanks again.  Keep simplifying lean- it will catch on in truely competitive environments

Reply »

Tracey Richardson August 05, 2013
HI John,

I do try very hard to articulate lean thinking to folks in a simplistic way.  I think if we can get leaders and or individuals not to see it as some special or the "add-on" then we are slowly moving the needle.  It doesn't have to be as difficult as many think it is.  Start slow, develop the action, create the habit and maintain.  Thanks for sharing! 


Reply »

Tanya Doyle August 06, 2013
3 People AGREE with this comment

Very nice post my friend!!  Often the first step of any challenge is the most intimidating.  With GTS I think if you "go and see" you have conquered half the battle!  Once you start talking with others at the gemba, you naturally get excited about solving the problem.  And like anything else in life, PRACTICE is the key to SUCCESS!!  Thank you for the post!

Reply »

Tracey Richardson August 07, 2013
The Go See is essential, its a common message through out all I say.  I love the lightbulbs that come on when people take the time to engage and involve the people who do the work out there.  It's amazing what you can learn!  Thanks Tanya

Reply »

Guy Russ August 09, 2013

GTS4 has become our mantra!!!!  Tracey and Ernie helped our team of more than 25 people understand this simple (simple to understand, not easy to do) yet disciplined method of truly understanding a problem.  That single learning event has turned into a launch pad for all aspects of Lean thinking in our organization.  The pace of improvement has increased dramatically and people are excited for their work again because they now have a way to identify, communicate and solve the things that were standing in their way of performing at the higher levels they expect of themselves.

I've come to believe this way of thinking is fundamental to competing in the world today and Tracey and Ernie are masters at assisting people in "re-wiring" their thought processes to solve problems at an ever-increasing pace.  Thanks Tracey and Ernie!!!!

Reply »

Tracey Richardson August 20, 2013
This is GREAT news Guy.   Glad to hear things are going well.  It starts with basic actions and build upward through experience / practice.   As you said it is fundamental and essential to begin to change the way people think about abnormality.   Please keep up the great work and keep us posted on your progress! 

Reply »

Skip Matty August 19, 2013
1 Person AGREES with this comment
Great blog!  We have been focused on this for a while, though we have not called it GTS4.  We have seen much buy in to "Go to See", or Gemba, but I have seen leaders struggle with Grasp the Situation.  This is mainly becasue we have not established clear standards to compare current state to. 

Without clear standards we at times have leaders jumping to Get to Solution.  After determining their "solution" they again do not create a new standard and eventually the solution fails. 

All four steps are critical and cannot be missed.    


Reply »

Tracey Richardson August 20, 2013
Thanks Skip for sharing your experience, sounds like you are doing the right things!   I agree with you, these actions are critical starting with the "go and see", confirm with facts! 

Reply »

Jesse Cotten January 08, 2014
Tracey Thanks for the Great Post.  I am directig my team to your post so they can see this written from another source of lean expertise.  Our company is only three years in the lean journey and i think we still struggle with Go Look Go See.  I like the way you broke this down to tie back into standardization

Reply »

Bret Kindler April 01, 2014
1 Person AGREES with this comment
Tracey:

I am not sure if you are ready to "raise the power", but I have been using your techniques since it was GTS^2. In so doing, one of the the things I have noticed is that many people see and understand the GTS^4 as an individual effort. When in fact, performing GTS^4 with at least one other person, it increases your own understanding tremendously.

This brings me to GTS^5. My goal in leading people through this process is to "Gain the Synergy".

If we see it together, understand it together, and fix it together, we will undoubtedly have the synergy of a powerful thinking process together.

Thank you for all of your help, feedback, and positive influence over the years


Reply »

Search Posts:
Lean Problem Solving
Mike Kobashi, Pascal Dennis, Sammy Obara, Tom Shuker & Tracey Richardson
Managing to Learn: The Use of the A3 Management Process
David Verble, Eric Ethington, Ernie Richardson, John Y. Shook, Mark Reich & Tracey Richardson
Lean Thinking, 2nd Edition
By James P. Womack and Daniel T. Jones
"Too Busy to Walk the Gemba"
A Lean Leap of Faith
A Sensei in One's Own Land