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A Gemba Walk with Yoda: What Can We Learn?

Posted by Greg Jacobson

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Dec 11, 2015 7:04:30 AM

Star Wars: The Force Awakens has sold more advance tickets than any movie in history, and it's not close. We’re not going to lie – we’re as excited as everyone else. In honor of this momentous occasion, we thought, who better to take on our next Gemba Walk than Grand Jedi Master Yoda, one of the oldest and most powerful known Jedi Masters in the Star Wars universe. Surely his wisdom will help guide us.

 “Many of the truths that we cling to depend on our point of view.” – Yoda

A different perspective is precisely the reason Gemba Walks are so effective at uncovering opportunities for improvement. In the practice of continuous improvement, “gemba” refers to the place where work gets done. It could be a factory floor, a sales bullpen, a hospital admissions desk, a call center, or any place where people actually add value to products or services. Managers and other leaders using this technique, physically go to the gemba to observe people and processes in action. A new point of view is exactly the point.

You must unlearn what you have learned. Do not assume anything Obi-Wan. Clear your mind must be if you are to discover the real villains behind this plot.” – Yoda

Unlike Obi-Wan, you aren’t looking for a “villain” during the Gemba Walk, but you are looking for flawed processes, missing resources, workspace problems and other opportunities to reduce waste, increase efficiency or improve quality.  All assumptions must be put aside. The reality of what is happening is allowed to displace beliefs about what is, or should be, taking place. During a Gemba Walk, employees aren’t told what to do, rather they are asked why they are doing particular tasks in a certain way. Only with a clear mind can an accurate picture of the current state be obtained.

A Jedi uses the Force for knowledge and defense, never for attack.” – Yoda 

A Gemba Walk should be used for knowledge and improvement, never as a way to criticize employee performance or enforce policies. In most cases, defects and waste are due to poorly designed processes, undocumented standard work or ineffective training, not incompetent employees.

This one a long time have I watched. All his life has he looked away… to the future, to the horizon. Never his mind on where he was.” – Yoda

Luke does need to learn to be in the moment. So do managers using the Gemba Walk technique. That’s why changes are never suggested or implemented during the walk. Only after the observation is complete and there have been time to reflect and analyze are improvements made.

We hope that these thoughts from Yoda have put you in the right frame of mind for your next Gemba walk. When you take it, may the force be with you.

Download this free guide to learn how to have Gemba Walks that actually result in improvement: 

Free Guide to Gemba Walks


Topics: Gemba Walk

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