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What is Gemba?

Gemba is a Japanese term that means “the real place” or “the actual place.” In a business context, Gemba refers to the physical location where value is created in a process or where work is performed. The Japanese gemba walks is often associated with the meaning of ‘going to the source’ or ‘where the action happens.’ You can apply with Gemba full form we will dive in this blog.

What is a Gemba Walk in Lean Manufacturing?

The LEAN management philosophy includes the Gemba walk. This walk was created to enable managers and leaders to observe and engage with employees gain insight into the work process and identify opportunities for continuous improvement.

Taiichi Ohno is the creator of the Japanese Gemba Walk, and in meaning, he believed it provides executives with a unique opportunity to step out of their day and see the real work, as well as build trusting relationships with other workers.

Gemba is a Japanese term for "the real place".
Gemba is a Japanese term for “the real place”.

11 Steps for a Successful Gemba Walk

Planning, execution, and follow-up are the keys to great results. These are the top steps to make your next Gemba Walk a success:

Step 1: Get the team ready

All team members involved in the Gemba must understand what it is and how it can be used. It is their job to remove any obstacles that hinder them from adding the most value. Everyone will feel more at ease and open to having a conversation about the walk before it happens.

Step 2: Make a plan

Gemba walks should have a purpose, they are often linked to a particular concern or Key Performance Indicator (KPI). Japanese Gemba walk managers ask very detailed questions about what is being observed and the meaning of it. Who are the participants? What materials are used? What are you doing? What do you do? At what time does the task occur? What is the outcome? MBWA doesn’t require that level of depth and it does not usually focus on open-ended questions.

Step 3: Follow the Value Stream

Handoffs between people, departments, and processes are often where the greatest opportunities for improvement exist. These areas that have high waste potential can be identified and addressed by following the flow value.

Employees are encouraged to propose shifts or areas of improvement that could benefit from a Gemba walk. This will not only help you find opportunities to improve, but it will make the process more collaborative. They are the ones doing the actual work and have a greater chance of seeing the process from a different perspective. The value you bring to the table is not a new perspective on existing processes. Asking people for their suggestions is a way to engage them and make it clear that you are there to support, not criticize.

Step 4: Never lose sight

The meaning of Japanese Gemba walks is not performance evaluations of employees. It is designed to help improve processes by observing, understanding, and eventually improving them. It should not feel harsh or threatening.

It’s a good idea to inform employees at the Gemba that you will be asking them many questions about how, what, when, and why things happen. It is important to be clear that you don’t seek “right” answers. You only need honest and complete answers. You want them to tell you if work isn’t being done according to the Standard and not to cover it up.

Step 5: Keep a record of your observations

Full-form Japanese Gemba walks are full of information, and you must have tools for recording your observations and their meaning.

Log your observations: Although we may be stating the obvious, it is important to have a way to record your observations. The time to react to what you see after your Gemba walk and not during it. A way to recall what you saw and what you thought is essential. You should be able to upload your observations via a mobile phone or tablet, so you can track their implementation and keep track of the impact of your Gemba walks. In a pinch, a pen and paper are sufficient.

A camera: It can be very helpful later to browse through a gallery or even just a few seconds of video. 

Open mind: You don’t want to let preconceived notions cloud your observations. You shouldn’t assume that everyone performs the task the same way or that the work is performed according to the standard.

Step 6: Ask questions

Ask employees why they do what they do. Ask employees about their work documentation, how they handle exceptions, and why certain operations are done in a particular order.

The Gemba Walk’s 5 Ws provides a great structure for all the questions that you would like to ask.

  • Who? – Who are you observing in the process of observation? Who is responsible for the input to the process? Who are the “customers?” of the process? Pro tip: Don’t ask who is responsible for the problems.
  • When– Are process inputs readily available? Are outputs available when needed? Do you see the waste of time?
  • Where– Is the area where the work is done by 5S? Are the equipment and materials easily accessible? Are you aware of motion waste?
  • What? – What are both the inputs and the outputs of the process? What are the obstacles that prevent flow?
  • Why? – What added value does this work bring to the customer’s life?

Gemba walks are an opportunity to observe, not take action. While it may be tempting to rush to find solutions or make changes immediately, you should take time to reflect before making any decisions.

Step 7: Participate in teams

Although not all Gemba walks need to be done in a group, it is a great idea to bring along a leader from another functional area of your organization to gain a fresh perspective. A person who is less familiar with the process may ask different questions to gain a better understanding of the work.

Step 8: Determine who should go

A customer: This may seem controversial and not always a good idea. However, today’s customers value transparency and are often curious about how the sausage is made. You might also find things they are less likely to value than you.

A vendor: If your team uses consumable products, software, or equipment, inviting the vendor along to your walk might prove useful. They might be able to suggest best practices or spot errors in the way the product is used. 

A peer in another department: It’s easy to get so used to seeing problems every day that we don’t notice them. If you go on frequent Gemba walks, a second pair of eyes might prove to be valuable.

One of your sales representatives: People pitching your product to customers must understand the process and how it relates to customer value.

Step 9: Mix up the schedule

Gemba walks should be noted on leaders’ calendars. However, it shouldn’t be repeated every month. It is a good idea for leaders to take Gemba walks at different times throughout the day, on different days, or in different parts of the month to gain a better understanding of the process.

Step 10: Follow up with employees

Sometimes, the full-form Japanese Gemba walk results will be obvious immediately as changes are made and/or an improvement cycle begins. However, even if there is no immediate action, employees must follow up with you. Communicate what you’ve learned and what the next steps will be, if necessary.

Step 11: Return to the Gemba

After a full-form Japanese Gemba walk, make sure you return to the Gemba to verify that changes have been made. While KPIs may give you an indication of the effectiveness of improvement, they are not as effective as direct observations.

To address common issues or concerns in your workplace, you don’t have to email back and forth. It can be timesaving to get a firsthand view of a problem than reading third-hand or second-hand accounts. After all, images are processed faster than text in the human brain.

Many of our customers’ methods to reduce waste and increase customer value are similar to full-form Japanese Gemba walks. They are simple but extremely powerful. Simplicity should not be mistaken for complacency. For the best results, it is important to execute well. These best practices will ensure you leave each meeting with the right information to help you make informed decisions about improving processes and results.

What is Gemba full-form?
What is Gemba full-form?

Full form Japanese Gemba Walk Checklist

You should prepare a checklist before you start a Gemba Walk. This will help you to focus and target your efforts. Include questions to help you better understand the process that you will be following. The theme of your Gemba walk may dictate the questions you ask.

What is the meaning of Gemba walks?
What is the meaning of Gemba walks?