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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

Taking Your First Gemba Walk? Here are 10 Tips.

Posted by Maggie Millard

Sep 12, 2016 10:12:11 AM

If you are getting ready to take your first Gemba walk, good for you! Gemba walks are an effective way to identify opportunities for improvement, improve team collaboration, and recognize team members who are doing outstanding work. In order to get the most out of the technique, keep these ten tips in mind.

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Topics: Gemba Walk

Bring the Spirit of Pokémon Go On Your Gemba Walk

Posted by Matt Banna

Aug 8, 2016 11:18:54 AM

A friend is visiting Rome right now. Yesterday she posted a selfie from the Coliseum. Of course, I asked the obvious question, “Is it a Pokéstop?”  It is 7 Pokéstops and a gym!

You’d have to have been living under a rock for the last few weeks to have missed the Pokémon Go phenomenon. This interactive game has just about everyone doing something downright crazy – going outside.  

Of course, thinking about these things like I do, I was struck by the similarities between Pokémon Go and the practice of Gemba Walks. Perhaps your next Gemba Walk will be more effective and fun if you consider what it has in common with the phenomenon that is sweeping the world right now.

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Topics: Gemba Walk

Gemba Walks: Your Search for 85% of Your Organization's Problems

Posted by Jeff Roussel

Jun 8, 2016 8:00:00 AM

Dr. W. Edwards Deming, a towering intellect whose thinking about improvement affected a quality revolution of gargantuan significance on American manufacturers and consumers, once said, “Eighty-five percent of all performance problems are not people problems, they are process problems.”

His statement holds true in every business from manufacturing to health care. What’s more, people problems are generally easy to spot. Process problems, on the other hand, can be very difficult to hone in on, especially by managers and leaders who are removed from the day-to-day tactical work. That’s where the Lean technique called Gemba Walks comes in.

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Topics: Lean, Leadership, Gemba Walk

Don’t Take Your Next Gemba Walk Off the Cliff

Posted by Maggie Millard

May 16, 2016 10:24:11 AM

Gemba Walks are an important way that managers can identify opportunities for improvement and accelerate positive change within the organization. (Here is an introduction to the concept if it is new to you.) We’ve offered a few tips and tricks before, but, for now, let’s focus on what not to do.

Here are a few mistakes that might counteract your good intentions and take your walk to a place you don’t want to go.

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Topics: Gemba Walk

What and Who to Take On Your Next Gemba Walk

Posted by Maggie Millard

Apr 5, 2016 10:20:55 AM

Gemba walks are an important part of any continuous improvement effort. They involve leaders, managers, and supervisors going to the place where work is done to observe and identify potential opportunities for improvement. (If the approach is new to you, check out our beginner’s guide.)

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Topics: Gemba Walk