Gemba Kaizen philosophy is based on the principle that best process improvement happens when people closest to the process give suggestions for improvement of that process. Moreover, the best place to assemble for the discussion to come up with improvement ideas is the Gemba.
In Kaizen, process improvements can be done using multiple tools viz. Visual Management, Kaizen Events etc. Gemba Walk is one such important process improvement tool.
Gemba Walk is based on the philosophy- ‘Go and See’ in Gemba.
Gemba Walk is a process of making personal observation of jobs and workflows where work happens (i.e. Gemba) with those who actually do it, as against discussing about the solving the problem in a meeting room. It is like, you can’t be an expert in lawn tennis by learning about the sport in a classroom. You learn it best at a tennis court i.e. the Gemba.
This in-person observation allows leaders to see the difference between what they assumed is happening and what is actually happening.
Gemba Walks may be conducted the traditional way as well as digitized.
Objectives of Gemba Walk:
By closely observing ‘the site where the value is created’ and listening to employees, business leaders and supervisors can get a fresh perspective on the business and new insights into how to make product/ service/ process changes better for their customers.
Tip: Note that the purpose of Gemba Walk is not to review results or make superficial comments.
Another objective of Gemba Walk is to identify wastes in a process. By identifying waste, one can save costs as well as increase process efficiency. As much as 40% overhead expenses can be saved by conducting Gemba Walks regularly at your workplace.
However, Gemba Walk must be done correctly for it to give desired results. The video below gives important Dos and Don’ts for Gemba Walk; watch on …
Dos and Don’ts of Gemba Walk:
How to do Gemba Walks?
If a department head plans to go for the Gemba Walk then I would recommend that he/she goes alone (rather than a team), so that they get a chance to have open and frank discussions with the shop floor employees working on that process. The idea is to make your employees comfortable to open up, be creative and give useful suggestions, rather than worry about petty politics.
You could have one-on-one or many-to-one discussions during the Gemba Walk.
Also, leaders doing Gemba Walk must note that the walk is not an exercise for employee performance evaluation. Neither is it a time to engage in employee task management.
How often should Gemba walks be done?
Post Gemba Walk To-Dos:
Categorize your thoughts, findings, and discussion points, and within a week or so provide feedback to employees on your walks.
Note that Gemba Walk is a transparent activity and success from the walk is based on the level of trust employees have on that leader.
Note that Gemba Walk is not an audit. Audit is done to check compliance to 'documented' procedures. While Gemba Walk focuses on 'process improvement'.
Gemba Walk is a rewarding tool for big and small organizations, especially Startups.
Few key areas of using Gemba Walks may be to improve value quotient of a specific product, or increase productivity of a machine, increase sales, improve area utilization, or identify wastes in a business process and increase its efficiency.
When done correctly, Gemba Walk can have a dramatic impact on a company's operational excellence since it entails engaged leadership. Moreover, Gemba Walks can save as much as 40 to 45% of a business’s operating costs.
Note that, Gemba walk strategy must be appropriately designed (and executed) and customized for each business. Are you planning to initiate Gemba walk for your organization?
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