The Gemba Walk is a powerful way to build standard work into our leadership activities. It is about getting out of the office and into the process with our people, to help them discover issues and fix them. It becomes a valuable mechanism for staying in touch with our managers and team leaders, and keeping in touch with the real operational issues in our business.
Why do we need to build Gemba walks into our daily routine?
- We can use the Gemba Walk to reiterate our vision for the organisation and make sure we are doing the “right things - right”. There is no better way to reinforce our vision than repeated face to face dialogue.
- We can break down the barriers between management and the teams and improve communication channels throughout the operation. Often, team leaders and team members will be reluctant to raise issues for fear of being “wrong”.
- The Gemba Walk helps us build relationships with our team leaders by getting to know them better and helping them improve their processes. This is fundamental to improving teamwork and the effectiveness of our teams.
- We can help people discover opportunities for improvement by asking questions and listening to the answers. In this way we can offer real support, encouragement and praise.
- It becomes a mechanism for “catching” people doing the right things and allows us to recognise people for the good work that they do. We can use the Gemba Walk to improve morale by actively showing respect for people.
- Our visibility shows that we care about how things are going, and want to support the teams to set targets and improve performance. When we show interest in certain aspects of the operation the teams will usually also take an interest.
How do we do Gemba Walks?
- Make it a daily routine and have a set time. Avoid letting other meetings or issues interfere with this routine if possible.
- Choose your Gemba walk participants carefully. Have a briefing session before and after the walk to prepare and debrief.
- Ask questions and listen attentively. Avoid the temptation to offer solutions - this is disrespectful to our people because it does not help them solve their own issues for themselves.
- Set the example of how we want our team leaders to behave with their people. We should be encouraging our team leaders to mirror our behaviour with their teams.
- We are looking to increase ownership so be careful that by doing the Gemba Walk we do not erode the ownership. Use the Gemba Walk as a mechanism to empower people to solve their own problems. Ultimately we are looking to have teams solving problems of which we are not aware.
- Use the opportunity to reinforce the importance of the appropriate Lean tools such as 7 wastes and VSM.
- Structure your questions so that they draw out ideas for improvement of the process. It is often useful to have a “standard” set of question to ask.
- Use the Gemba Walk as an opportunity to share what you are learning about the processes.
- It is useful to have a theme for each walk, so that there is a focus eg safety, 5S or performance measurement.
- Maintain a sense of “pace” during the walk. This not to be seen as just a casual chat.
- Make sure we take care of problems straight away. There should be a sense of urgency about our improvement activities.
- Take the opportunity to praise people and give people positive feedback where it is due.
- Be careful about being the management police. This process is about building trust and relationships.
- Look for what disrupts the workflow with a focus on waste between the process steps.
- Use the walk to help identify where mistakes could be made in the process, and encourage people to implement solutions that prevent mistakes.
- Use the walk to identify all waste streams and rework loops, along with ways to reduce these.
- Use the walk to identify whether the metrics being used are effective measures that help highlight causes of problems.