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KaiNexus Blog

Everything Continuous Improvement


Gemba Walk Essentials: What, Why, and How

Posted by Maggie Millard

Sep 11, 2017 9:34:34 AM

If you are thinking about adding the practice of Gemba Walks to your continuous improvement strategy, or if you are simply wondering, “What the heck is a Gemba Walk?” there is a ton of information available on the subject.

In fact, we’ve written a post or two about it ourselves.

But our goal is to make this post an excellent place to start. When you are finished reading it you should know a lot more about what Gemba Walks are, why you should consider making them part of your routine, and how to go about doing it.

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Topics: Gemba Walk

10 Tips for a Successful Gemba Walk

Posted by Kade Jansson

Jul 20, 2017 8:11:00 AM

When we chat with leaders about how they are using various continuous improvement tools and techniques, Gemba Walks are often a hot topic. Interestingly, we find that people either view them as very effective and a great way to connect with the team and find opportunities for improvement, or they see them as a big waste of time.

What sets the two camps apart?

We find that leaders who get the most out of their visits to the Gemba have a few things in common. They generally follow each of these best practices. By adopting them, many leaders who didn’t get a lot out of their Gemba walks are able to make them much more useful.

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Topics: Gemba Walk

11 Steps to an Effective Gemba Walk

Posted by Kade Jansson

Jun 6, 2017 8:23:00 AM

Gemba walks are an increasingly popular management technique. By visiting the place where work is done, leaders gain valuable insight into the flow of value through the organization and often uncover opportunities for improvement and learn new ways to support employees. The approach is a collaborative one, with employees providing details about what is done and why.

Great results depend on thoughtful planning, execution, and follow-up. Here are the most important steps you can take to ensure that your next Gemba walk is successful.

1 – Prepare the Team

It is important that the team members who will be observed and engaged during the walk have a good understanding of what a Gemba walk is and how it will be useful. They should know that the purpose is ultimately to remove obstacles that make it more difficult for them to add the maximum amount of value. Talking about the walk before it happens will help everyone feel more comfortable and open to the interaction.

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Topics: Gemba Walk

How Software Makes Gemba Walks More Effective

Posted by Kade Jansson

May 16, 2017 12:50:20 PM

We get the chance to chat with a lot of frontline employees, managers, and executive leaders about all aspects of continuous improvement. We love to learn about how organizations are using the techniques and tools of Lean and other methodologies to improve results and reach their most important business goals. Gemba Walks are a practice that comes up quite a bit. Some leaders find them to be incredibly effective and welcomed by managers and staff alike, while others find them to be a chore with disappointing results.

Why is that?

Proper technique is certainly an issue (there are lots of ways that Gemba Walks can go wrong), but the use of software to support the effort also makes a big difference.

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Here’s how it helps.

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Topics: Continuous Improvement Software, Gemba Walk

16 Questions to Ask on Your First (or Next) Gemba Walk

Posted by Kade Jansson

Apr 24, 2017 10:09:10 AM

Toyota Chairman Fujio Cho gave a brilliantly simple description of what to do on a Gemba walk. "Go see, ask why, show respect," he said. That’s it in a nutshell. During a Gemba walk, supervisors and leaders go to the place where work is done (the Gemba). They observe (not fix) processes and activities and ask questions that will help lead to future improvements.

“Why?” is certainly an important question, but it is by no means the only one. We’ve put together a list of other questions that may be useful, especially if you are new to Gemba walks or if you are taking a look at a process for the first time. They may not all make sense in your situation, but perhaps they will trigger additional ideas.

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Topics: Daily Lean Management, Gemba Walk

When Good Gemba Walks Go Bad

Posted by Maggie Millard

Mar 15, 2017 7:19:00 AM

Fujio Cho is the honorary chairman of the Toyota Motor Corporation. He boils Lean leadership down to three simple responsibilities:

  1. Go see.
  2. Ask why.
  3. Show respect.

If you are wondering exactly what you should do on your next Gemba walk, there you have it. Go see. Ask why. Show respect. Gemba walks give leaders the opportunity to observe the processes that add value in their natural habitat. After all, talking about what happens on a factory floor or an emergency room in a board room is very different than observing work at the source.

But like any other continuous improvement technique, the devil is in the details when it comes to Gemba walks. The best of intentions can be undermined by mistakes in execution. Here’s how a good Gemba Walk can go wrong.

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Topics: Gemba Walk

Are Gemba Walks Only for Managers?

Posted by Maggie Millard

Feb 20, 2017 7:09:00 AM

During a typical Gemba Walk, a manager or supervisor visits the place where work gets done. He or she observes as processes and tasks are carried out, asks questions, and reflects on what was seen. After careful consideration, they would ask for (or potentially offer) ideas for improvement or begin a PDSA cycle. This is an effective way for managers to get a first-hand look at what is happening with their team and to get vital feedback.

But could the approach be used to help employees who are not managers get a better understanding of the overall flow of value through the organization and where their work fits in? We believe that it can.

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Topics: Gemba Walk

Is Your Company Making this Gemba Walk Rookie Mistake?

Posted by Maggie Millard

Dec 6, 2016 7:39:00 AM

Because we get the opportunity to chat with organizations of all shapes and sizes about their continuous improvement efforts and processes, we have a unique point of view that gives us insight into what organizations are doing well, and what challenges they face. We see exciting signs of success and common stumbling blocks. Recently we were reminded about one classic leadership mistake, assuming that all managers know how to do a Gemba walk.

Management Skills Require Training and Reinforcement

People in most entry and mid-level management positions got there because they were excellent individual contributors who showed signs of leadership skills. Too often, however, they are never taught specific management techniques and tactics. Not wanting to sound incompetent, they rarely raise their hand and ask for this type of training. So what you end up with is a lot of talented, dedicated people who are essentially winging one of the most important functions in the company. When it comes to Gemba walks, they may know that the practice is expected and report dutifully that they are taking the walks, but often no one follows up to see how the walks are being executed.

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Topics: Gemba Walk

6 Reasons to Make Gemba Walks Part of Your Routine

Posted by Jeff Roussel

Oct 31, 2016 8:29:00 AM

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.

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Topics: Gemba Walk

What Your Employees Need to Know About Gemba Walks

Posted by Maggie Millard

Oct 3, 2016 10:08:16 AM

We’ve contributed a bit to the advice out there for managers that use the Lean technique of Gemba Walks. Today we want to look at the practice from the other side and focus on the point of view of the employees doing the work.

Whether you’ve been doing Gemba Walks for a long time or are just taking them up, it is important to keep the employee’s perspective in mind and make sure they have the information they need to get comfortable with the approach.

Here are the most important things for them to know.


Gemba Walks Are About Processes, Not People

It is very important that everyone understand that the purpose of a Gemba Walk is to look for opportunities to improve processes and workspaces, not to evaluate the performance of individual employees. If this isn’t clear, your team may view the Gemba Walk as punitive and threatening, rather than a collaborative exercise.

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Topics: Gemba Walk