The Gemba Walk in Action
Beth Reid, MBA, LBC - Lean/Lead Auditor, Five Stones Research Corporation, Huntsville, AL on
June 07, 2018
Beth Reid is a leader in directing, facilitating and managing
Continuous Process Improvement projects, utilizing Lean and Six Sigma
methodologies for complex strategic programs within the defense and
service industries. In this blog post, she discusses the Gemba Walk and
how it is used to make frequent, incremental improvements.
Gemba is a Japanese term meaning where the action is. This could be the
production floor in manufacturing, the waiting rooms in the hospital, or
the testing area within a test lab. It is wherever the work is done. Being
at Gemba or where the action is within your work environment is critical to
have a clear understanding of what is actually
happening versus what you think is happening. It
is also the place where your growth in accomplishing a lean culture will be
foundational, as doing regular Gemba Walks is one of the best ways for
teaching lean production and lean management within any organization.
So what does it look like? A Gemba Walk can take many forms, from
leadership walking around observing the Gemba area; to a Lean Sensei and
student walking around to observe and learn; to an organized daily or
weekly walk to review metrics at Gemba with leadership, management and
employees. It is whatever will work in your organization. The important
point is to start with the right people and go to Gemba.
An example of a daily Gemba Walk in action focuses on Metrics. Select the
departments of focus and then have the owners of the department processes
select metrics within those departments that matter. For example, the
standard set of metrics should include Safety, Delivery, Productivity,
Cost, and Quality, but you can standardize any metric that is important in
your organization. You can create a metric board with a few simple supplies
– whiteboard, markers, and the metric.
Gemba Walks are scheduled at a specific time on a specific day, every day
or week and take precedence over everything else in the organization. No
meetings should be scheduled during this designated time frame. Be
committed to placing the Gemba Walk as the priority.
The organization’s leadership, in addition to the management and department
employees, should be in attendance to review the metrics during the walk.
Select the route that makes sense for your organization during the planning
phase prior to initiation of the Gemba Walk to see multiple boards during
Each department will have selected some metrics to measure. Establish a
goal that is challenging to meet, but not unrealistic.
If you are always meeting your goal, you are measuring the wrong
thing. Below are some very generic examples:
Safety: Goal is zero safety incidents for last 24 hours
Safety: Goal is to document near misses for last 24 hours
Quality: Goal is zero defects—Do it right the first time for the last 24
Quality: Goal is 100% error free for “X” process for last 24 hours
Delivery: Goal is 100% on time delivery for “X” Product/Process
Delivery: Goal is Zero errors in delivery for “X” Process
Productivity: Goal is 100% completion of scheduled work
Productivity: Goal is zero customer complaints
Customize the metrics based on your department; set a goal to achieve that
aligns with the metric. Then, each day as the team comes to Gemba to review
the metrics, walk them through what your goal was, reveal what you actually
did achieve, and document the reasons/causes if you did not reach the goal.
Leadership is there to provide you support to give you the things you need
so you can achieve those goals. Do not try to solve the problem during the
Gemba Walk. Review the metrics, take an action item to follow up on and
move on to the next board so the Gemba Walk continues to move quickly
through each department.
Getting the team’s eyes on the actual process and making real life
observations of what is happening is the best method to get their
understanding and support to provide the organization with what is
needed to achieve its goals.
To learn more about building a culture of continuous improvement, reach out
to us at 866.706.8665. With an entire
portfolio of workforce development solutions focused on lean, we can help
you transform your organization.
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