As readers of this blog likely know, we’re big fans of the Gemba walk, and we’ve written about it with some frequency. Who can’t get behind the idea that it makes sense for managers to go to the place where work is done to learn and observe? Preparation for, and thoughtful execution of, the Gemba walk is important, but the significance of what happens next can’t be overstated. You aren’t taking this particular walk for your health, after all. The Gemba walk is not just some box you have to check. It is simply the first steps on a journey to improvement.
Post Walk Reflection
The purpose of a Gemba walk is to get close enough to the work and ask enough questions that you are able to identify potential areas for improvement. These ideas aren’t shared during the walk, only after a period of careful reflection and review. Some good questions to ask during this phase are:
- Is standard work being adhered to?
- Is the workspace appropriate and stocked properly for the job that’s being done?
- Were any of the seven wastes observed?
- Are safety protocols being followed?
- Are employees engaged?
- Did employees mention or demonstrate any frustrations with processes?
- Is value being created for external or internal customers?
Post Walk Action
The phase of reflection is natural for most people, but sadly it’s as far as many Gemba walkers get. Ideas for improvement are written on note pads or shared in email, but never acted upon. What sets successful Gemba walkers apart is their use of continuous improvement technology to document and act on opportunities for improvement. Continuous improvement software provides a structure with automated workflows, alerts, and built-in collaboration functionality. It also creates transparency so that everyone involved can see improvement progress.
In short, with the right tools, Gemba walks create business impact; without them they are frequently a wasted exercise. Is that because managers are lazy? No. It’s because everyone is busy. We all have a lot of balls in the air and our attention tends to get turned to the crisis of the moment. That’s what the most successful companies understand. Improvement work must have a process of its own and like a lot of other business processes, software can help.
Gemba walks are only as valuable as their eventual impact on measurable business objectives. Get the most out of yours by keeping your eye on the prize.
Download this free guide to learn how to have Gemba Walks that actually result in improvement: