A management practice for grasping the current situation through direct observation and inquiry before taking action.
Gemba means “actual place” in Japanese. Lean Thinkers use it to mean the place where value is created. Japanese companies often supplement gemba with the related term “genchi gembutsu” — essentially “go and see” — to stress the importance of empiricism.
Because value flows horizontally across companies to customers, a productive way to take a gemba walk is to follow a single product family or product design or customer-facing process from start to finish across departments, functions, and organizations, according James Womack, author of Gemba Walks, and founder of the Lean Enterprise Institute.
He recommends gathering everyone who touches the process being studied to walk together while discussing purpose (what problem does this process solve for the customer), process (how does it actually work), and people (are they engaged in creating, sustaining, and improving the process). Thus, a gemba walk becomes a way to understand work, lead, and learn.