Gemba is the “real place.” It is a word that means getting a view of what people do in their everyday work life. How do things actually function? What are all the steps?
To do this we simply observe. In Gemba you get to see the work being done and learn from the people who do it. When done correctly it can be incredibly helpful to gathering information and creating relationships. It can be the most powerful tool to identify waste – and ultimately to streamline a process. To fully accomplish a Gemba walk you must go to the actual place of the work and talk to those who do the work. You must be an observer. You are here to learn. When setting up a Gemba walk there are a few things to consider:
- 1. What process would you like to see and what view are you going to take?
- Decide ahead of time the scope of your project. When will you know you started the process and when will you know you have reached the end of the process? Be sure this is defined clearly; otherwise we start to get something called “scope creep.” This is when you take on something that might be too big or you start to follow the exceptions and not the norm
- 2. What questions do you ask? What questions are best not to ask?
- The best questions to ask are clarification questions
- “Could you show me that again?”
- “Why do you do this step first/second/etc..?”
- “How do you do this again?”
- “Could you go into more detail?”
- Questions to avoid are judgmental questions
- “Why don’t you just…”
- “Wouldn’t it be faster if you did it this way”
- “I’ve see it done this way somewhere else, why don’t you do that?”
- 3. How will you gather your information?
- It can be helpful to have different people gathering different information. For example: one person records times, another takes notes, another photographs, etc… If the process does not lend itself to that, then each person can be responsible for gathering the information such as:
- “widgets” created;
- notes on the steps of the process; and,
- photos or other materials used such as forms or screen shots.
- 4. How will you act while performing a Gemba walk?
- This is the most important part of the Gemba. Remember that you are not an expert here, rather you are simply there to observe the experts. Be understanding of your host and respect their process. You are not here to judge them or to make decisions or suggestions regarding their process. It can be very vulnerable to open your process to observation. The most important thing you can do is respect your hosts.
- 5. How will you present and organize the information you have gathered?
- Use the tools to identify waste to help you outline and present all the information you have gathered
- Process Map
- DOWNTIME – identify waste
- Value Add / Business Necessary Non Value Add/ No Value Add exercise
- A3 – Why, Current State, Future State
- 5 Whys
- Spaghetti Diagram
- Communication Circle
Happy Gemba walking! If you have any questions, do not hesitate to ask a Peak team member: firstname.lastname@example.org
All photos are from a Gemba walk of the RTD bus inspection process – a big thank you to our wonderful hosts for allowing us to observe this cool process
Sophia works with the Peak Academy. Currently, she heads up the Peak Performers Mentor Program, trains Black Belt and Green Belt courses, and works with agencies to help foster and support innovation. Sophia's "bright spot" at work is getting to work with so many different departments and sharing tools that allow others to see their own innovations make a difference. Previously, she worked with Rocky Mountain Human Services in both their Adult Services, case management for adults with developmental disabilities, as well as in their Educational Department teaching career planning classes. Sophia was a trained Montessori teacher and has taught High School and Middle School in both Ecuador and Chile.
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