A Gemba Walk is a workplace walkthrough which aims to observe employees, ask about their tasks, and identify productivity gains. Gemba Walk is derived from the Japanese word “Gemba” which means “the real place”, so it is often literally defined as the act of seeing where the actual work happens.
Gemba walk is a simple yet powerful method done by employers to promote continuous improvement. Learning how to do a Gemba walk is an essential part of any company’s improvement plan, as they help the leadership team gain a real perspective on their business processes and procedures while connecting with their workers.
How to do a Gemba Walk
When looking at how to do a Gemba walk, having the right plan, attitude, people, and tools is essential. By aligning these factors, the walk will those in charge with the most out of the experience. In order to ensure a proper Gemba walk, the person responsible should take account of the following:
#1 Go See
Leaders should try to understand every Gemba from the standpoints of Purpose, Process, and People. In general, at this stage, leaders should understand if management is working to align people and process to achieve purpose, and if processes are designed to enable people to work toward achieving organizational purpose.
#2 Ask Why
Although it is the second element of “go see, ask why, show respect,” “why?” is not the first question that leaders want to ask at the Gemba. Firstly, they should ask “what”, then “why”, then “what if”, and, finally, “why not”. The concept is to master the behavior patterns to make them habitual in order to learn the thinking of the team.
#3 Show Respect
When conducting a Gemba, showing respect for the workers also shows how respectful the whole company is, as it analyzes how much – if any – disconnection there is between the leadership team and the rest of the employees.
#4 Document and Listen
It is important to remember that a Gemba walk is about observation and not yet about implementing process change, which should be implemented after the walk. While it may be tempting to see an issue and deal with it right away, leaders should make an attempt to limit this as much as possible. If the situation is not important, it is best to simply observe, ask questions, and document as much as possible.
#5 Schedule Gemba Walks Regularly
A Gemba Walk is not a one time deal. It is a management philosophy that should be performed from time to time. This will help the management team develop an accurate understanding of the realities of where value-creating work is performed and help establish a culture of continuous improvement.
How often a Gemba Walk is performed is decided upon how many processes are running in the company. For example, if a new process has been implemented onboard a ship or an old process has changed, having an active presence will be helpful until both the shore staff and the crew onboard have all the information they need.