During the Kaizen Masterclass we received in Tokyo a few weeks ago, international award winning author and speaker, Hilary Corna, former Senior Executive of Toyota who was responsible for change and improvement across 14 countries, introduced the Japanese concept called Genba.

Genba means “The actual place” and has come to be used in business management referring to the frontline, the factory, the place where actual work is done. Hilary explained how Toyota’s 300,000 frontline employees come up with over 1,000,000 ideas for improvement every year, 3.3 each, all from the factory floor, the showroom and other “Genba” environments.

This got me thinking about where and when and how the actual work of estate agency is done and the lessons we can learn from Toyota and other leading Japanese businesses.

Genba, for many people in estate agency, is at the property – whether the objective is to win the instruction or sell or let it.

If Toyota were estate agents they would constantly have senior executives and business improvement specialists attending a market appraisal, viewing, check in/out and completion/handover. This would be a daily activity with an audacious goal such as their 0% churn. Toyota seek for every customer to return to them when it’s time to change their car. And when I say every customer, I mean every customer. They’re not satisfied with 80/90/95% they want 100% repeat business and believe the answers to the blocks to achieving this can be found in Genba, not in the boardroom.

And yet so many of the discussions for advancement, improvement, etc. in estate agency take place in a meeting room, boardroom or “offsite” location and as frontliners will tell you, the issues they face, the conversations they have and the challenges to overcome are quite different to those of 5-10-20 years ago when perhaps you were mainly in Genba.

Answer this question honestly, how often do you actually go out and study what happens in Genba, on a listing or viewing, where the real work is done? If it’s less than once a week, it’s not enough.

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