How long a gemba walk should take depends on different factors. Find out everything you need to know and how practice affects timing.
What is a gemba walk?
The word gemba originates from a Japanese word which means the real place. It is a lean management strategy that is often adopted to maintain healthy employee and manager relationships whilst simultaneously improving efficiency within the workplace.
It is a form of safety and efficiency check that takes place where the work is actually happening. Gemba walks take managers out of their offices and directly on the shop floor or factory to assess the working environment and identify opportunities for improvement.
Why should you do gemba walks?
When companies perform gemba walks, it allows them to create a culture of continuous improvement. When management is on the shop floor, they can gather information and create healthy relationships with their employees which allows those in positions of power to make the changes that need to be made.
When a constant dialogue is fostered between team members and management, it allows those who are on the shop floor to be open about their concerns which allows problems to get resolved quickly and operations to run as smoothly as soon as possible.
Gemba walks are beneficial on a personal and company level. It is a lean management technique that seeks to improve processes through good relationships and front line efficiency.
Who performs gemba walks?
The answer varies depending on what processes need to be assessed but generally managers or senior-level staff perform them. For example, if you need to assess safety procedures, you will want a safety coordinator to perform the gemba walk. If you want a more thorough overall check, you might even want the CEO to run the gemba walk.
Gemba walks originated in the manufacturing industry and were most often utilized on production lines. However, since its inception it has been adopted by a range of different industries.
How often should you do a gemba walk?
Many companies and management teams think that a gemba walk once a month is sufficient in order to assess the situation and make the changes that need to be made but for you to see real change and efficiency, you need to perform gemba walks far more often.
Striking up a balance between not doing gemba walks often enough and doing them too often can be difficult. If you don’t do them often enough, you won’t be able to swiftly identify the problems that need fixing. Whereas if you do them too often, they will lose meaning and you will have difficulty gaining a fresh perspective on each walk.
You should therefore try to do regular gemba walks that work for your team. Creating a schedule that works for everyone involved without being too overbearing is the key. A general rule of thumb is that it is a good idea to run one gemba walk per week for every department within your company.
How long should a gemba walk take?
The gemba walk itself should take anywhere between 15 to 45 minutes. Where you fall in this bracket will depend on varying factors. In addition to the gemba walk itself you should also factor in the follow-up time.
One of the main deciding factors of the amount of time it takes to complete a gemba walk is how big the department is. If it is a big department, there will be more things to check so it will take longer to complete it.
Once you have been able to gather valuable information from the gemba walk, it is essential to schedule follow-up meetings with management in order to plan improvement projects based on the information you have collected.
What should be covered in a gemba walk?
The time it will take you to complete your gemba walk relies on how thoroughly you complete it. If you don’t carry out all the appropriate checks and complete it in the correct manner, it will inevitably take less time as opposed to if you did the whole thing thoroughly.
Below are things that should always be covered in a gemba walk:
1. Choose a theme
It is not possible to focus on everything in every gemba walk you do. If you did this it would take you hours. However, if you choose a theme to focus on every time you will be able to concentrate your efforts on each specific sector that you are focusing on.
The kinds of themes that you should be thinking about focusing on could include cost efficiency, safety or just overall productivity. Focusing on just one of these areas will allow you to use your time more effectively and assess what needs to be assessed in a timely manner.
2. Build a dedicated team
Assigning a dedicated team is another key way to cut down your gemba walk times. If you only have a small department, you will likely be able to get away with just one team member carrying out the gemba walk. However, if you have a bigger area to cover with more employees, you are going to want to assemble a dedicated team to help you.
Having a gemba walk checklist will help to ensure you have the right amount of people on your gemba walk. You will want to create an appropriate ratio of gemba walk team members to on the floor team members. It might also help to have different people on your team looking out for specific things.
3. Have a plan
Going into your gemba walk with a specific plan will help you be more efficient on your walk and save time. If you have taken our advice and chosen a theme to run your gemba walk, it will allow you to make your plan far more targeted and specific.
The kinds of things that you should include in your plan could include open questions which will garner more in depth responses such as asking employees on the floor what their role is, who is involved in that specific process, and what and how processes could be improved.
You can also ensure that each team member knows exactly what they’re doing if you have a plan outlined. Having a plan is a guaranteed way to make your gemba walk as streamlined as possible.
4. Focus on observations
Whilst it is important to keep communication open and healthy with employees, it’s also important to ensure that you are focusing on observing the processes as opposed to the people. It can often make employees feel uncomfortable if they feel like you are interrogating them in their place of work.
You should therefore take a step back and just approach the situation from a point of view in which you are looking to improve the situation, not criticize the current working processes. Keeping this in mind will also allow you to stick to a more minimal time frame and complete the gemba walk as quickly as possible.
You should also avoid suggesting changes during the walk. There are a few different reasons as to why you shouldn’t do this. Firstly, if you make changes on the spot, it won’t allow you to adequately reflect and talk with your team about what needs to be done. Moreover, it can get confusing as you tell people how and what to change on the spot.
5. Make your gemba walks regular
Performing gemba walks regularly will ensure there is never anything too drastic that needs to be changed. You will hopefully pick up on anything that isn’t as efficient as it should be or isn’t as safe as it should be to swiftly rectify the situation. This will also allow your future gemba walks to go through faster as you will be accustomed to the process and what needs to be done.
6. Invest in gemba walk software
In order to easily achieve all of the above points, you might want to consider investing in a gemba walk targeted software. The Gembawalk app allows you to organize, plan and record everything you need for your gemba walk and complete follow-ups within the app. This makes the entire process quicker and more efficient.
With our Gemba walk app you can:
- ● Create custom checklists
- ● Remove barriers between leadership and workers
- ● Increase productivity and efficiency
- ● Save time and reduce waste
- ● Access a dashboard with performance indicators
- ● Reduce data collection time
- ● Thoroughly document issues (pictures, videos, notes, etc.)
- ● Quickly asses and solve problems
- ● Identify problems in areas of production, business processes, work areas, safety and more!
- ● Generate actionable insights and ideas
- ● Integrate insights into your preferred task management tools
Not only do gemba walks improve the efficiency and overall safety of your company and the processes within it but they also improve your manager and employee relationships. It is important that you know how to correctly execute gemba walks in order to ensure that they are completed in the most efficient manner possible. Preparation, efficiency, and speed can all be easily achieved with the Gemba Walk App!