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Adding Flavor to the Gemba Using SALT

by Grant Greenberg
October 23, 2013

Adding Flavor to the Gemba Using SALT

by Grant Greenberg
October 23, 2013 | Comments (3)

While on an afternoon run in preparation for a panel discussion on lean leadership, I was contemplating how to describe a functional leadership gemba visit. I had recently visited Lucile-Packard Children’s Hospital in Palo Alto, CA and had the privilege to observe their gemba rounds. As I thought about what it meant to be a leader supporting gemba learning, I recognized that the leaders at Lucille-Packard, and at other places I’ve observed, apply a practical aspect to gemba visits that takes the process beyond the simplicity and passivity of the words “go see” to an interactive opportunity for true inspirational leadership. 

Thus, I came up with a mnemonic to better describe the rich and unique, “flavorful” opportunity that a gemba visit provides. SALT.

“S”: Go See. Open your eyes, and truly observe the situation. Take note of where you are, who is there. Are the right people there? Is the location and environment you are observing conducive to teamwork, communication, and problem solving? Although seeing is passive, there can and probably should be internal, active engagement by the leadership.

“A”: Go Ask. Based on what you’ve observed, ask questions to both get a deeper understanding of the environment you are visiting and to demonstrate interest and engagement to those employees you are leading. I can’t understate the importance of this simple behavior. By simply asking questions, you immediately show respect for the people you are leading. You inherently acknowledge their expertise and the importance of their opinions .

“L”: Go Listen, go Learn. What good is asking if you aren’t listening? Ask and Listen go hand in hand, and by simply paying attention you readily demonstrate that you want to learn directly from the frontline employee. 

“T”: Go Teach, go Try. How often on a gemba visit do good ideas come up that are worth trying? The ideas will come from the employees who know the situation. As a leader, a successful gemba visit should include specific, planned follow up actions based on what is seen, discussed, and learned. In addition, it is highly likely that the learning is applicable to other areas. Leadership indeed is about sharing and disseminating the information that has value across an organization. The teaching from the gemba is not top-down; it stems from the true expertise and knowledge of those on the frontlines of the work. Encouraging the spread of small experiments and the sharing of ideas is the root of a truly functional gemba.  

So, although a bit silly, the mnemomic “Go S.A.L.T.” can remind every leader of the true purpose and value of a gemba visit.

The views expressed in this post do not necessarily represent the views or policies of The Lean Enterprise Institute.
Keywords:  gemba,  leadership
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3 Comments | Post a Comment
Woody Till October 28, 2013
1 Person AGREES with this comment
Grant,

Thanks for the great article. You are right on. It is a message Jim Womack has preached for years. This is a simple way to keep the leadership focussed on what a Gemba Walk is all about. We leaders have trouble letting the rank and file do the thinking. We didn't get where we are today by letting others think for us. We were go getters that had the right answers and could make the on the spot decisions that had a major impact on how the job got done. The Gemba walk is asking us leaders to step back and let the employees make the decisions on improvement. We find that hard to do being the command and control people we are. However, once you do let go you will find that there are some pretty smart employees working for you. Once you start encouraging employees to make those improvements you will see a measurable improvement in your business.

Wood


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Danielle McGuiness November 06, 2013
I also had the privilege to visit Packard Children’s hospital this past April. I was blown away by their 10:30am management huddle. Led by one of the surgical directors, with the support of a performance improvement team member, this 15 minute meeting (always, plus or minus 2 minutes) has a clear agenda and palpable accountability with white boards for guidance of the day’s talking points. Most importantly, the team in the room is there to relay to their staff the current state of the units in the hospital. But more than just awareness, this meeting was also about problem solving and decision making. Great stuff.  

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Daniel Fisher November 19, 2013
Great article Grant, I think using SALT can be really helpful to those who dont always know how to start, or what to do when going to the gemba.

Cheer


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