Q: “Do you find it easier to complete your Gemba Walk if you have a pre-defined form to take with you on the walk?”
A:This is an issue of your objective and your experience.
When I am taking a walk at a new organization to look at the big picture for the first time, my objective is to ask big questions about (1) the purpose of the value stream selected for our walk, (2) the steps the value stream follows and how well these steps are addressing the purpose, and (3) the engagement of the people. Given my years of experience, I don’t need a detailed check list (or a map) for this type of walk. Instead I try to grasp the big picture by asking a few simple questions: “What is the purpose of this process?” “Who is responsible for it?” [See my column of July 6 for further thoughts on responsibility.] “Is this process achieving its purpose and, if not, in what ways is it failing?” “What are the causes of these failures?” “How are the people touching the process consulted and engaged in improvement?” For this type of initial walk a loose structure and the opportunity to follow every question wherever it leads is actually very useful in uncovering problems just below the surface.
However, when my gemba walk has a more technical focus and I am trying to share methods with managers inexperienced in gemba walking, I find that a check list of more detailed questions can be very useful. I provide an example of the list I often use in my essay “Taking a Value Stream Walk at Firm A” in my Gemba Walks book.
But the best answer to this question is the answer that works for you in your organization. If you need a check list, develop one. But make sure its development is a shared task and that there is general agreement on how and when to use it.
Visit the Gemba Walks book page to learn what topics Jim covers, from the practical to the provocative.