Gemba walk is an opportunity to capture topics and concerns related to how effectively your team is performing. Learn what you should do when doing a Gemba walk.
Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. From such a perspective, most of the contemporary managers seem to be insane.
Why? Because you cannot expect different results from your team by sitting in your corner office and only attending KPI meetings. Instead, you need to see where the real work happens. You need to do Gemba walks.
The Gemba walk is an essential part of the Lean management philosophy. Its initial purpose is to allow managers and leaders to observe the actual work process, engage with employees, gain knowledge about the work process, and explore opportunities for continuous improvement.
Let’s explore the Gemba walk in detail.
The term “Gemba” comes from Japanese, and it means “the real place”. In Lean management, “Gemba” is the most important place for a team as it is the place where the real work happens.
Quite simply, for rock bands, the “Gemba” is the recording studio. For Formula 1 teams, the “Gemba” is wherever the car is. For manufacturers, it’s the factory floor and so on. In other words, it is where the real work happens, so you can observe and analyze it.
The Gemba walk is a concept developed by Taiichi Ohno, who is often considered the father of Just-in-time production.
By developing such a concept, Ohno offers a real opportunity for executives to leave their daily routine, see where the real work happens, and build relationships with workers based on mutual trust.
There are 3 important elements of this lean manufacturing tool:
Before you walk the shop floor, you need to make a plan and follow the steps. The plan should depend on your goals and objectives.
Sometimes it may be unstructured, for example, if you are new to the organization, while in other cases, your plan will be much more precise because you will be more familiar with the details. In any case, be prepared for the Gemba walk. Otherwise, it will be inefficient.
Now, let’s define some basic steps.
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Every time when you perform a Gemba walk, you need to prepare a checklist in advance. This list will help you focus and target your efforts.
The checklist has to include questions that will help you understand the process you are going to observe in a better way. Your questions may vary depending on the theme of your Gemba walk.
Here are some basic Gemba walk checklist questions:
These questions will defer when exploring different areas such as problem-solving, innovation, resources, tools and etc. So before you go, Gemba, prepare your checklist carefully based on the area you want to investigate.
Before you take any actions based on your Gemba walk observations, you will need some time to organize your thoughts and notes.
Feedback is important, but early feedback may be devastating. Here is why you need to sit down with the leadership team and carefully analyze the situation.
You can even invite some of the workers who you’ve observed. For example, the ones who gave you the most insightful information.
Use all the data that you collected as part of your continuous improvement process, also known as a Gemba Kaizen circle.
It is a meeting held after each Gemba walk that may include a few participants from different departments.
The main purpose is to have as many different points of view as possible to make the best decision. A decision that will actually bring improvement.
It is important to go around the shop floor and collect insightful information about what needs improvement. However, what matters most is to go back to where you started.
A post-Gemba walk closes the loop and shows respect to the people that have been observed. This will make it much easier to lead a successful Gemba walk in the future.
Performing Gemba walks on a regular basis can offer some significant advantages like:
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