In a serendipitous bit of blog timing, I was just editing a new post on how fanatical Howard Schultz is about going to see his customer when I read Michel Baudin's latest on his experience at Boeing in getting up close and personal with customers. (Maybe it's something in the Pacific Northwest waters?) Tom Peters tells this story about a conversation he had with Howard Schultz:
Howard Schultz will personally, physically, visit a minimum of 25 Starbucks shops per week. . . I asked him about it and he said, “Look, I don’t care if we have three, thirteen, or 13,000 shops. The reality of the business is one Starbucks employee selling one cup of coffee to one customer. And despite all the statistics that pour across my desk, unless I can feel it, and taste it, and smell it, and touch it—that fundamental human interaction—I ain’t in touch with what’s going on in the world.”
Check out the full video here, or below:
So yes, by all means go to the gemba. But don't forget to visit your customers (internal or external), too.