The Gemba Walk in Action

Posted By: Beth Reid, MBA, LBC - Lean/Lead Auditor, Five Stones Research Corporation, Huntsville, AL on June 07, 2018

Beth Reid

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 your walk.

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 hours
  • 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.

Tags: "Beth Reid Lean Sensei", "Continuous Process Improvement", "Five Stones Research Corporation", Gemba, "Gemba Walk", lean, "lean journey", "lean manufacturing", "Six Sigma", "Tooling U-SME"