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7 Steps to Performing Effective Gemba Walks

2 minutes, 45 seconds read

Gemba walks denote the action of going to see the actual process, understand the work, ask questions, and learn. 

The objective of Gemba Walk is to understand the value stream and its problems rather than review results or make superficial comments.

Why do a Gemba Walk?

  • Identify the chain of value creation 
  • Gather insights by observing the reality of the process against the standard
  • Discover improvement opportunities
  • Provide support and detect learning opportunities for our staff 
  • Learn from our staff  
  • Promote communication and collaboration 

Gemba Walk Best Practices

  • Observe: Be curious and present while being in the shopfloor, avoid jumping to conclusions
  • Ask why?: Understand the difficulties, perceptions or reasons why the process is happening as it is. Observing the reality with the right context allows you to detect improvement opportunities and share them with the rest of the organization.
  • Use the standard: Remember that standards are the best way we know today of doing something. An standard should prevail until we find a better way of doing things. 
  • Show respect: Gemba walks are great opportunities to connect and build rapport with our teams, listening with respect is key to promote growth and collaboration.

7 Steps to an Effective Gemba Walk

Step 1: Create a theme

  • Before a walk begins, pick a theme. 
  • Narrow the focus of the Gemba walk to focus attention and yield better results. 
  • Tailor your Gemba walk questions to the theme and ask quality questions.

Step 2: Prepare the team

  • Inform the team by explaining what a Gemba walk is and what to expect. 
  • Consider sharing your checklist. 
  • Ensure it is not perceived as an evaluation, but rather, a collaboration. 
  • Getting buy-in will also raise questions that could have been missed.

Step 3: Focus on process

  • Stick to the evaluation of the process and how things are done. 
  • Checklist questions force you to assess the process, not the person.
  • Avoid the most common gemba walk mistake: blaming. 
  • Identify opportunities of improvement in the process and systemic barriers on the shop floor hindering productivity.

Step 4: Keep the value stream front and center

  • Make sure your checklist traces the whole value stream. 
  • Defining questions out beforehand, ensures you don’t miss crucial stations or processes. 
  • Focusing identifying bottlenecks and potential pockets of waste.

Step 5: Record your observations

  • Record everything. 
  • Hoover up every data point you encounter. 
  • Don’t make assumptions or recommendations before journaling everything. 
  • Checklists are helpful to record your observations as answers to questions. 
  • Take notes or record findings via video. 
  • Record, record, record!

Step 6: Get a second vantage point

  • Have a second pair of eyes review your findings for additional insights. 
  • Have another team member write their own checklist. 
  • Comparing checklists can help you locate any gaps. 
  • Try someone far removed from the operations, or an experienced operator. 
  • Feedback reveals overlooked information.

Step 7: Solicit feedback

  • Present your findings to the team regardless of outcome. 
  • Even if no action is needed at this time. 
  • Include proposed changes in your presentation, backed by facts. 
  • Get buy-in from all stakeholders and increase the probability of successful change.

Video: 7 Steps to performing effective Gemba Walks

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