Gemba walks are a great way for management and other leaders in a company to get a first hand look at how things are done, and to come up with new ideas or solutions to problems. A real Gemba walk, however, is more than just getting out of the office and walking around the facility. Learning to do this type of activity correctly will provide many benefits to the company, the manager, and the team that is being interacted with. The following are simple steps that will get you started on a Gemba walk.
Notify the Team You will Observe
Many managers like to show up unannounced to observe what is going on. This is more of an effort to catch people making mistakes than it is trying to learn how things are done. Letting the people working in an area that you will walk through know that you will be there, and what your intent is, can help you to get better information. Explaining what a Gemba walk is to them can be very beneficial as well.
What are Your Goals
You aren’t just going to walk through an area and take a look at what is being done. Each Gemba walk should have some type of goal in mind. For example, you can walk through an area with the intent of improving workplace safety. This will help guide you through what to look at, and what to watch out for. Of course, if you notice other important things while you are there, you can certainly make notes of them as well.
Processes. Not People.
A Gemba walk should focus on the processes that are followed, not the individual employees. This is not an effort to try to find mistakes that people make, or get anyone in trouble. Instead, you want to look closely at HOW things are done so you can find ways to make improvements for the entire area.
Talk to the People
While you’re not walking through the area to get people in trouble, you are going to want to learn as much as you can from those working in the area. Asking questions of the employees in the area you are observing is very important. These front line employees often know much more about where improvements can occur than anyone else.
Document What You Find
Always bring tools with you to document what you find during the Gemba walk. You can do this on a tablet, paper & pen, or anything else that works for you. It is also smart to take a camera with you so you can take pictures of areas that may need improvement.
Finally, once you have completed the Gemba walk, you will want to make sure that you follow up on it with some action. Looking at the information you gathered and coming up with ways to make improvements will help give you additional credibility for the next Gemba walk. Of course, making improvements is also the main point of the Gemba walk in the first place!