The Gemba concepts are a great way to encourage managers to get out to the places where they manage and learn more about how things are done. If it isn’t used specifically to identify and solve problems, however, there would be little difference between Gemba and the concepts of ‘management by walking around.’ Fortunately, Gemba does have a bigger focus on finding things that need to be changed and then taking steps to implement them successfully.
One of the biggest ways that Gemba is used to solve problems is by focusing the intent of a given walk. For example, if a manager notices that one shift is taking longer to complete each product than the others, they would want to plan a Gemba walk to that specific area. While on the walk, the manager would look for what may be causing the slowness in their workflow. Another example would be if one step in the workflow process is resulting in a higher number of defects than others, the manager would schedule walks to that specific location.
Used to Implement Changes
Once a walk has been completed, the Gemba process is not over. Instead, the manager should be taking the information they gathered on the walk to come up with ways to make improvements. While not ever Gemba walk will directly result in an improvement, that should be the main goal. This is unlike ‘management by walking around’ in that the manager isn’t just going out to interact with employees. The real goal is to come up with the most effective ways to benefit the company.
No matter what the main point of a Gemba walk may be, the person performing the walk should always take time to talk with the employees in the area. They can often point you directly to the source of the problem, even if they aren’t aware of the root cause. Taking advantage of the knowledge that front line employees possess will help to ensure are you are able to quickly come up with an accurate idea of where the problem lies, and how it can be fixed.