7.3. Frequent Face-to-Face Interaction

Although there are no reprisals if local operations ignore headquarters' advice or if subordinates disobey orders from their supervisors, refusal to listen to others is a serious offense. "Listening thoroughly to everybody's opinion is our calling," said Executive Vice President Yoshimi Inaba. Toyota's nerve system functions only when information at the source is available to everybody in the organization. Thus, the emphasis on face-to-face interaction at the scene. As Yukitoshi Funo, President of Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A, noted, it is only the people at the scene, at genba, who have this information at their fingertips:

However visionary the people at the top may be, it's the people at the bottom who have the actual information about what can and cannot be done. It is at genba where all essential information is processed and frontline employees make the judgments that take into account local conditions and the opinions from the top.[]

Rarely do managers at Toyota reach senior positions without acquiring and embracing the skill of listening thoroughly and intently to what employees have to say and continually questioning and probing to find the better way. John Kramer expressed the sentiment behind this practice:

As a senior manager you're willing or motivated to listen to staff because, firstly, you respect their opinion and, secondly, you're always looking for new ideas or ways you can do better. You're never satisfied. So, it's shortsighted ...

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