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  • Speak to their “what’s in it for me” (WIII-FM)
  • Ask for their expertise


  • Deep expertise in how things are “really” done
  • Suspicion about the intent

Gemba, a Japanese word meaning “real place” or “where the action takes place”, is a strange way to describe a person, but it’s at the core of understanding how change happens.  Gemba, in this context, refers to the person doing the work.  In a change, it’s the person whose behavior needs to change to succeed with the initiative.  If you’re changing the way that the organization sells to its customers, then the gemba may be the salespeople in the organization.  It’s not the sales manager – unless they’re directly doing selling.

The gemba is the final arbitrator of what is really done, despite what may be understood or even documented about the process and how things work in theory.  It’s the gemba who must be consulted to validate that the plan for change can work.

Gemba often feel under-valued, that their opinions don’t matter in the strategic conversations that are happening.  While many may be glad to not have to worry about larger matters and carry more stress, they often believe that they have something valuable to add to the conversation – and they often do.