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Everything Continuous Improvement

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A Gemba Walk Checklist for Lean Leaders

Posted by Lisa Hanna

Aug 15, 2018 8:10:00 AM

Most leaders dedicated to continuous improvement focus on performance indicators that can be measured and rightly so. We look at cost, production speed, error rates, customer satisfaction scores, and other quantifiable business metrics to identify opportunities for improvement and to assess the impact of any changes that we implement. However, there are some things that can’t be measured – process problems or improvement opportunities that you have to see with your own eyes to understand. For those, there are Gemba Walks.

Gemba means “the real place” in Japanese. During a Gemba walk, the leader goes to the place where work is performed to gain first-hand insight into the target process. Unlike the practice of Management By Walking Around, Gemba walks are structured and performed with intention.

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Topics: Gemba Walk

What to Include on Your Gemba Walk Agenda

Posted by Jeff Roussel

Aug 10, 2018 7:46:00 AM

Gemba walks are a favorite Lean management technique, but they can be used by any leader to become more connected with the people and process they manage. During a Gemba walk, the manager visits the place where work is done to observe, show respect to the employees, and potentially identify opportunities for improvement. This post will outline the agenda items for such a walk.

Let’s begin by saying that having an agenda is what sets Gemba walks apart from the technique called Management by Walking Around (MBWA). MBWA is intentionally unstructured and fluid. Gemba walks, on the other hand, have a defined purpose and a specific process to be observed. Although you might not have an exact order of events because you don’t know what you will see, you absolutely should have a list of agenda items that you want to complete before, during, and after each walk. Here’s what should be on it.

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Topics: Gemba Walk

How to Actually Enjoy a More Productive Gemba Walk

Posted by Maggie Millard

Mar 9, 2018 7:34:00 AM

Gemba walks are a valuable tool for anyone interested in continuous improvement and spreading a culture of improvement across the organization. Leaders visit the place where work gets done, observe, ask questions, and show respect. Following the walk, an improvement cycle might be started based on analysis of what was observed.

It’s actually pretty simple, but the simple things can be the most difficult to execute effectively.

Here are a few tips for getting the most out of your next Gemba walk.

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Topics: Gemba Walk

A Few Profound Thoughts on Gemba Walks

Posted by Jake Sussman

Nov 14, 2017 7:34:00 AM

As I was researching our upcoming post on the Pioneers of Lean Leadership, I came across a quote by Taiichi Ohno, one of the fathers of the Toyota Way and Kaizen. On the subject of Gemba walks, he said, “When you go out into the workplace, you should be looking for things that you can do for your people there. You’ve got no business in the workplace if you’re just there to be there. You’ve got to be looking for changes you can make for the benefit of the people who are working there.

This is a deeply important idea that encapsulates the purpose of going to the Gemba as well as the difference between Gemba walks and management by walking around. I especially appreciate that he focused on making changes to benefit the people who are doing the work, not simply to reduce waste or cut costs. When workers feel productive and engaged, amazing results can occur.

I wondered if other leaders had thought-provoking things to say about Gemba walks and it turns out they certainly do. Here are a few gems.

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Topics: Gemba Walk

11 Steps to an Effective Gemba Walk

Posted by Kade Jansson

Oct 26, 2017 2:02:52 PM

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.

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Topics: Gemba Walk

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

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: Gemba Walk, Continuous Improvement Software

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: Gemba Walk, Daily Lean Management

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

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