If you’ve Googled something along the lines of, “What is a Gemba Walk” then you’re in the right place. In this post I’ll give you a Gemba Walk definition and why it’s important for your business.
What Is A Gemba Walk
The word, “Gemba” is a Japanese word that means ‘The real place.’ This comes from a methodology called ‘Lean Six Sigma’ or ‘Lean Thinking’. Check out Lean Six Sigma A Beginner’s Guide where we speak with a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt from Catalyst Consulting. Lean methodology comes from Japan and was spearheaded by the likes of Toyota. One of the techniques they teach is called the Gemba Walk.
If there is a problem in any part of a business, the temptation is to try and fix it straight away. The problem with this is that it is assumptive. You’re assuming you know what the problem is. Lean Methodology is very big on eliminating opinion and gathering facts/data.
The 3 Rules of a Gemba Walk
One of the techniques to fix something in a business is to do a Gemba Walk. There are 3 parts to a Gemba Walk:
The first principle of a Gemba Walk is that the manager must go to where the work is happening. In Toyota, this was quite often on the actual factory floor in and amongst the assembly lines. The first principle is that you must go to where the work is happening. You can’t bring people into your office. That takes the people away from their comfort zone. You need to go where the issue is happening.
Secondly, the Manager will ask questions. A lot of people may have the temptation to tell people how to fix something. Again, how can you tell them what to do if you don’t know what the root cause is? We have two ears and one mouth for a reason. Use them accordingly. The Manager must ask good questions about how the work is being done, what the issues are, why it’s being done this way and so on. By doing so, the Manager builds a clear picture and understanding of the current process.
Thirdly, the Manager must show respect. Going to where the work happens is the first sign of showing respect. Another thing they could do is to dress the same as their people. If the Gemba Walk is being done on a factory floor then the Manager should get rid of the suit and tie and put on some overalls. The Manager must also ensure they convey a respectful and polite tone. Remember that the people can feel defensive if you are coming on their territory and may feel they are being criticised.
There you have it – our definition of ‘What is a Gemba Walk’. Always remember the 3 golden rules:
- Go to where the work is happening
- Ask questions
- Show respect
As long as you follow those 3 rules, you should be able to gather the right information, find the root cause and fix the problem. Now that’s a successful Gemba Walk!