I don’t know anyone these days who doesn’t have a full, if not overflowing, plate when it comes to work. We’re all trying to do more with less. Under these conditions, it’s no wonder that some of the things we know we should do get put on the back burner because we are overwhelmed with things we must do.
For some of the managers I’ve chatted with lately, Gemba walks, unfortunately, end up in that category.
We recommend that before you boot your next Gemba walk off your calendar in favor of another meeting, take just a few minutes and remember all of the reasons that people who do Gemba walks regularly swear by the practice. You may find that it deserves a higher priority after all.
Leaders take Gemba walks to:
Validate Standard Work
If you have Standard work in place for each process, a Gemba walk is the perfect (perhaps only) way to verify that work is being done to the Standard. There is frequently a big difference between how the process is documented and how it is actually being performed. You may find that additional training about the Standard is needed, or that the Standard should be updated to reflect changes to the process.
Visible leaders increase employee engagement. A Gemba walk lets employees know that their leaders care about what is going on in their domain and they reinforce that the work being done is important to the organization. Feeling valued is one of the most important ingredients for engagement.
Get Honest Answers
People can become incredibly tight lipped when they are pulled into a conference room to meet with managers. Even if the manager is willing and able to handle honest feedback, the format can be intimidating. People tend to be more comfortable in their own familiar space and you’re likely to get more open communication.
Uncover Opportunities for Improvement
You may find that work is being done exactly according to the standard, but that there are ways it could be improved. Your conversations may reveal frustrations or friction in the process that should be investigated with a PDSA cycle. Front-line workers may be so used to process or workspace problems that they no longer recognize them as problems. A fresh set of eyes is extremely valuable.
Recognition for a job well done is essential to a culture of continuous improvement. Gemba walks offer an excellent opportunity to show gratitude for the things your team is doing right, even while you look for opportunities to improve.
Communicate and Reinforce Goals
It can be easy for front-line employees to lose sight of how the work they do relates to the overall strategic goals and objectives of the organization. Leaders visiting the Gemba can remind people of the big picture and talk about how individual, team, department and corporate goals are all aligned.
Leaders who skip or put off their Gemba walks are missing all of these excellent opportunities that can’t be effectively replicated in any other way. Putting Gemba walks in the “must do” column is a smart move indeed.