Gemba Walk

Gemba Walk: What is it?

A gemba walk is an opportunity for teams to discuss issues they're facing at their workplace. Here's what you need to know before doing one.

Most contemporary managers seem to be crazy.

Why? Because you can't get any better results if you sit in your office and only attend KPIs meetings. Instead, you should go out into the field and observe what's really happening. You should do Gemba Walk.

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The Gemba walks are one of the most important parts of lean manufacturing philosophies. They're used to help improve the efficiency of production processes by allowing people to see where things go wrong.

Let's take a closer look at the Gemba walk.

A gemba walk is an actual physical visit to the production line where a

Gemba is the most important location for a team because it is the real workplace.

Quite simply, for any business, the Gemba is the place where the company does its best work. For companies who make cars, the Gemba is where they build them. For those who make software, the Gemba is their office. And for anyone else, the Gemba is whatever they do. In short, the Gemba is what matters.

The Gemba Walk is a method developed by Taiichi Ohnoevens used to improve productivity. The idea behind the gemba walk is to allow managers to get out from behind their desks and actually visit the actual place where the real work takes place.

Lean tools include three key components:

  • If you go and see, the main point of the Gemba walk would be for managers and leaders at every level to regularly walk around the factory floor and to be involved with finding wasteful activities.

Ask why. A gemba walking is one of the best methods used to understand the value chain in detail and find out where problems lie. A good leader is open to listening instead of talking. Here are some reasons why you might choose to utilize different approaches such as 5 whys to identify problem areas in the process.

  • Respect your colleagues. Remember that a Gemba visit is not a "supervisor" visit. Do not blame others; instead, concentrate on identifying weaknesses in the system itself. Focus on the problem areas, not on individuals.

Here are seven steps to follow when you go to gemba (the actual workplace).

Before you go shopping for business clothes, you need to think about what you want to achieve and decide which direction you're going in. Your plans should be tailored to your specific needs and objectives.

Sometimes it may be less structured, for example, when you're new to an organisation, while in other cases your plans will be much more precise since you will be more familiar to the specifics. In either case, be ready for the Gemba Walk otherwise it will be inefficient.

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  • Pick a theme. At Gemba, you should select a theme. This will allow you to focus all your attention and energy on one specific area. You can then decide what areas you would like to improve upon. Before you start, make sure you have prepared a list of questions you're planning to ask.

Preparing the work environment is essential. Workers must understand that the gemba walks are a common practice where the ultimate goal is continuous improvement. This means that they should be ready to collaborate and share ideas freely. Otherwise, workers may not be comfortable enough to contribute effectively.

  • A gemba walk is not the best time to assess your team's performance. Your primary goal should be improving the overall process. If you spend too much time focusing on individual members' strengths and weaknesses, you'll run into problems.
  • Follow the value stream to see which parts of the business offer the highest potential for improvement. Identifying these parts will allow you to eliminate wasteful processes and focus on the most profitable ones.

Record your thoughts as you go along. Make notes about what you see and hear. Be aware of any distractions or interruptions. Remember to write them down so you won't forget them. Keep track of your progress. When you're done, review your notes and plan next steps.

  • An extra pair of hands. It may be a great help if you can get someone else to do your job. Someone who doesn't know the ins and outs of your business. Someone who is not familiar with your daily routine. People who are less experienced usually have a fresh eye and ask new questions that you might never think about.
  • After the gemba walks, I would recommend sharing the results with the rest of the organization. You can also bring them into the room where we discuss our findings. We then decide together how to proceed. In case you do not get any feedback, you should let the people know that you did not find anything.

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Gemba Walk Checklist

When performing a Gemba walk, always make sure to have an agenda beforehand. A checklist will allow you to focus and direct your energies towards the most important things.

You need to ask questions that will enable you to see things from different angles. For example, if you're observing an assembly line, your questions might be "What is happening here?" or "How is the product made?". If you're observing a customer service desk, your questions might be “Who is doing what?” or “Why did they do that?”

Here are some basic gemba questions for walking through an assembly line:

Before you start, be sure to prepare your list of questions for each area you're planning to explore.

Post-Gemba Walk

Take some time before you start writing up your findings from your Gemba walks.

Feedback is important, however, early feedback can be disastrous. Here are some reasons why you need to meet with the leadership teams and carefully analyze the situation before giving them any feedback.

If you want to get a better understanding of something, ask people who know more than you. For example, the people who gave you the best insights into the subject.

After each gemba walking session, use all the gathered information to improve your business processes.

The main purpose is for there to be as many different points of views as possible so that we can come up with the best solution. One that will actually improve things.

You need to go around the store and gather information about what needs improvement, but what really matters is going back to where you started from.

After observing a person at their workplace, a post-Gemba visit makes it easier for them to be led through another Gemba visit later.

To summarize, performing gemba walk regularly can help companies improve their processes and products by observing them firsthand.

  • Building strong working relations with those who actually do most of the work and create most of the value.
  • Identifying problems and acting upon them quickly to achieve continuous improvement.
  • Communicating clearly to employees what their goals are and why they're important.

Glossary to better understand Gemba Walk:

Gemba, process, times, person, Gemba Walk.

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