WHO

All leaders, managers and employees trying to bring about change.

WHAT

Gemba is a Japanese term which means “the place the truth can be found”. 

First described by Toyota Chairman Fujio Cho, ‘go to gemba’ is an attempt to turn thephilosophy of scientific empiricism into  actual behaviour. Go to Gemba, or undertaking a Gemba Walk, describes a process for identifying and discussing activities, progress, problems and plans. Once you are at the gemba, there are three mandated steps to any Walk:
  • observing the work being done (Go See);
  • asking why it is undertaken in a particular way (Ask Why); and,
  • showing respect to all the people involved (Show Respect).

WHY

Gemba understands that you cannot change a shop-floor process by sitting at an office desk. In order to improve or change a process, you must first understand how it is really undertaken. Gemba is often undertaken as apart of a wider Lean initiative. A Gemba Walk is a low-cost, high-impact practice, which creates a discipline of continuous improvement.

Going to Gemba is an effective way to stay engaged in what happening in the work place. Additional benefits include:

  • More aware of the work being done
  • See how employees work at various times of the day
  • See beyond the reports to see results of work in progress
  • Learn about individual worker and their habits
  • Can watch your managers and supervisors doing their jobs
  • Workers will appreciate it
  • Should help find ways to improve work that is being done

HOW

A Gemba Walk should be an unannounced activity, performed as often as possible by people at different levels in the organisation.
Step one: Go See
The observer is seeking to understand the gemba (whether a specific gemba, or the organisation more widely) through the lens of a socio-technical system. Once there is a basic understanding of the current situation, the observer can begin to make initial observations about what this gemba and these employees need to learn.
Key questions to consider:
  • Is management working to align people and process to achieve purpose?
  • Are processes designed to enable people to work towards achieving organisational purpose?
Step 2: Ask Why
When standing at the Gemba, how do we understand the process side of the specific gemba-as-a-system?
There are four lean lenses that are adopted for examining the process:
  • Solution view – view all steps in the process as an opportunity to deploy lean tools.
  • Waste view – look for one of the seven types of waste, e.g. overproduction, waiting, conveyance, processing, inventory, motion and correction.
  • Problem view – What are you trying to achieve? Why are you not achieving x goal?
  • Kaizen view – apply the Kaizen system by focusing on value-stream mapping, material flow and information flow for system design. Look for patterns that can be applied to improve the process (known as kata). The continuous engagement with the Kaizen view is also a form on continuous improvement.
Step 3: Show Respect
This step mandates that practioners engaged in a go to gemba show respect to all people involved in the value-creating work. Respect should also be shown for the customers and the company as a whole.
Examples of disrespect are:
  • Workers being overburdened, or at over capacity;
  • Customers being delivered late or low quality products;
  • The organisation showing more than 2 types of waste.

SOURCES

Gemba Walk by Bill Wilder

Why Management Should Go To Gemba by Sam Grier

How To Go To Gemba: Go See, Ask Questions, Show Respect by John Shook