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Mapping Out Your Gemba Walks

by Andrew Quibell
November 25, 2015

Mapping Out Your Gemba Walks

by Andrew Quibell
November 25, 2015 | Comments (8)

Gemba or genba? That’s what I often hear in lean circles, but here’s a better question: Why are we so stuck on this distinction when there are bigger fish to fry? Gemba walks may sound like Lean 101 but they still require 110% of your undivided attention. And even then the problems that sent you on the gemba walk may go unnoticed if you don’t know what exactly you’re looking for.

Walking the gemba is all about learning to see your team members’ strain, burden and unevenness – and then deciding how to eliminate it.

So take a look at the sketch here (click to see a larger image), which I use to map out gemba walks and make things easier to take in. I start by asking myself if I can see the above three causes of waste at the gemba itself? Or am I ‘blind’ to the misery that management has let creep back into the process?

I always start at the end of the process I’m examining and work the gemba backwards to the beginning. Cycle times need to be captured first to check if the process is functioning at, behind or ahead of rate/takt. And then I work my way back, station-by-station, looking for the disconnects that may be stealing productivity and competitiveness. And I ask myself: can I ‘see’ idling team members, hidden bottlenecks on machinery (stoppages under 15 minutes), and/or team member strain, unevenness and burden? 

Once I’ve pinpointed them, I get my team members’ buy-in on any improvements. This is key - we can't forget to harness and involve the people in key roles as our advocates and supporters to sustain gains. The role of the team leader in this is critical to maintaining improvements made through gemba observations.

So based on what I have said and what you can extract from the sketch (which I hope is making you think!) would you feel comfortable tackling a gemba walk now this way? Or do you have another approach you can share with our readers?

The views expressed in this post do not necessarily represent the views or policies of The Lean Enterprise Institute.
Keywords:  continuous improvement,  gemba
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8 Comments | Post a Comment
Ladislav Zastresek November 27, 2015

Hi Andrew, I really like your sketches, but can not open this one. Can it be fixed? Thank you Ladislav



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Paul Hodgetts November 27, 2015

Hi @Ladislav, if you right click and select copy on the image, and then paste into something like a graphics program or even a Word doc, the image is actually very large in size (2684 X 3586) and very readable (it's just scaled down in the article).

But, yeah, it would be nicer to click on it and see a larger view.



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Paul Hodgetts November 27, 2015

Hmm... What would a gemba walk look like for a knowledge work process, like software development?



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Vitezslav Pilmaier November 28, 2015
1 Person AGREES with this reply

Yeah - this is a pain of any "office" work - the process is actually invisible, so probably on the start there would be something like "make the processes visible to be able even to start the Gemba walk"...



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Edythe December 03, 2015

In office work, look for signs of carpal tunnel, tendonitis, hunching over and squinting at screens; although the full email inboxes and eCalendars are not physically visible on a physical desktop, they can be seen.  Do people's faces and postures look tense or relaxed?  How much multitasking is going on?  WIP boards show where bottlenecks occur and where more resources might be deployed. They also show if WIP is too high.  How much of the office work needs to be redone (for any reason).  These are things I have observed with office work.



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Ellen November 30, 2015

I cannot open the image further?



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Andrew Quibell November 30, 2015

Hi All,

    I think you find the access to the image to open it is now corrected .



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Bob MacPherson December 01, 2015

I enjoyed this perspective on Gemba walks. In addition to getting an understanding of the team members, we have also used the Gemba process as a way to reconnect staff people to the work and the environment around the work. While some workers are more than happy to share their concerns and issues, discovering first hand what those challenges can be in a restrictive environment seems to be an often overlooked part of Gemba walking. We have used the Gemba walk as a cultural change methodology which helps the staff members to develop their Gemba senses. They are asked to go beyond the traditional walk and share their reflections with their leaders upon completion. In the spirit of "Learning to See" we are also trying to help them develop all of their senses  including learning to hear, learning to feel (touching and sensing) and learning to smell as well. These observations are then crafted into the discussion ponts with the operators resulting in a more meaningful Gemba. (Less meaningful Gemba = "How are you today?")



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Search Posts:
Gemba Walks - A Management Process for Leading the Organization
Dave LaHote, Dave Logozzo & Ernie Richardson
Go and See the Lean Supply Chain: Gemba-Based Workshop
Derek Browning & Robert Martichenko
Gemba Walks, 2nd Edition
By Jim Womack
Learning to See / Creating Continuous Flow Set
By Mike Rother, John Shook, and Rick Harris
The Art of Silent Observation
The Hidden Waste in Inspection
"Too Busy to Walk the Gemba"
"What Do I Need to Know?"
Adding Flavor to the Gemba Using SALT
Advice from the Gemba: Best Tips for Designing a Work Experience