What is Gemba is a common question when one is first learning Lean. In this article, I’ll explain the concept of the Gemba and also show what is entailed in a Gemba Walk.
The concept of the Gemba means “the place where value is added” – which means that it’s the place where the work is done. In North America, the term “front lines” is a common term to describe the same concept. There is a related concept in Lean called the Gemba Walk.
The Gemba Walk
Here are some quick snippets that explain what the Gemba Walk is versus what a Gemba Walk is not:
- Not management by walking around
- Stresses importance of lean activities and use of tools
- Begins at the top and works down through the ranks
- Each level mentors the other
- Opportunity to provide one-on-one mentoring
- Rule of Three: Three teaching/coaching sessions before you discuss performance
- Educates management about the way they believe things are vs. the way things really are
Principle Elements of a Gemba Walk
Gemba Walks should be regularly scheduled. The frequency depends on level. Rotate area or activity of focus for every walk, such as 5S, zone stability, quality, downtime. The focus should must be on the process and improvement needs!
Another important element in a proper Gemba Walk are questions. Question supervisors, team leaders, etc. But don’t just ask question, you must also listen attentively. Sharing what you learned as you walk through the work areas. One suggestion, if useful, is to write a short memo on what you learned and post it for others to see and also follow-up to monitor progress.
Example Questions to Ask in a Gemba Walk
Here are a few examples of question to ask during a Gemba Walk:
Questions regarding activity or process:
- What is normal in this area? How can you tell?
- What would more finite measurements tell us?
- What are the team leader and team members supposed to be doing in this situation? Why should they be expected to know that?
- How do you know employees are following standard work? What can be done to increase the visual control of the process?
Questions regarding SQDC board data:
- Who’s responsible for updating them?
- Do the other employees look at the charts? How often?
- What value do the charts have for the employees?
- Do our customers ever look at the charts? Do our suppliers?
- Do you think the charts have an effect on the overall quality of the parts being produced?
Questions associated with sustaining the implementation of a lean practice
- What changes must be implemented to measure process and effectiveness?
- How will these practices be sustained?
- How will you verify these practices?
A Sensei’s Three Questions:
- What is the process here?
- How do you know it is working?
- If yes to #2, what are you doing to improve it?
These are just some suggestions. Please modify your approach to what’s appropriate for your business. Feel free to incorporate anything written here to what makes sense for you.