Why Management Should Go to Gemba

gemba walk IT departments are always looking at Leadership training, ITIL or other best practices to improve their department. A Gemba walk performed one or more times a day is a zero cost, high impact practice that will give you a better understanding of the work in progress and the people who do the work. Quickly you will find your Gemba walk to be the most valuable part of your day.

Gemba is a Japanese term meaning “the real place or “the place where the truth can be found”. If you seek solutions to problems that need to be fixed, go to Gemba. If you want to see the work behind the reports, go to Gemba. If you want to show leadership, go to Gemba. Go to where the work is performed and observe and engage with those who do it.

The purpose is to observe what is going on in the workplace. To gather information on any current problems so they can be resolved. To look for work and workers that are outside of normal business practice. To engage with workers as they do they work. To see and be seen.

In planning for my day, one of my first tasks is to go to Gemba. I walk the floor and every area where work is being done that I am responsible for. Since Gemba visits should be unscripted and unannounced you should do them at various times of the day. This will allow you to see work as it is really done, rather than work that is staged for you.

The best way to observe during a Gemba visit is to find a remote corner where you have a clear view of the workplace and just stand there. Observe what is going on. See what work is being done. See how employees are doing the work. Take a notepad with you to write down any thoughts you may have such as follow-ups or ideas for improvement.

Going to Gemba is an effective way to stay engaged in what is going on in the workplace. If you just sit at your desk all day, you are not engaged in the work you are responsible for. The work or products are not made at your desk. Work is done in Gemba.

If you go to Gemba every day and observe and engage your employees you will gain many insights.

  • You be more aware of the work that is being done.
  • You will see how employees are working at various times of the day.
  • You will see beyond the reports to actually see the results or work in progress.
  • You will gain insight about individual workers and their work habits.
  • You can watch your managers and supervisors do their jobs.
  • Workers will appreciate that you do come around to see the work they are doing.
  • You will find ways to improve the work that is being done.
  • You will take away something each day that you can use to improve the workplace or the work being done.

While you may have managers or supervisors who work in the Gemba, they should not be to only source of information about what goes on in the Gemba. It is far better to observe yourself. See work as it happens. Watch how workers interact. Look for areas that can be improved.

Engage with the workers to see what work they are doing. You will reap a better insight into what is going on in the workplace so when you return to your desk you are engaged in and informed about the real place the work is done.

One of the most insightful books I have read about Gemba and using Kaizen is Masaaki Imai’s “Gemba Kaizen”. It gives you approaches that help you apply Kaizen and understand that it is in Gemba that the real action takes place. While Gemba and Kaizen are Japanese, they translate very well into any workplace. They are common-sense, low-cost approaches to improvement.

Buy the book on Amazon Gemba Kaizen: A Commonsense, Low-Cost Approach to Management