The problems in businesses or organizations are generally visible and managers can easily identify them and find ideas for improvement by performing regular gemba walks. A gemba walk is an activity that takes management to the floor and work areas to look for wasteful activities and opportunities in order to seek practical solutions to problems.
Gemba walk is one of the most important practices to create a culture of continuous improvement. It consists of creating the habit of going to the gemba or "where the real work happens" and identifying opportunities to eliminate waste, work overloads and unnecessary variability in processes, equipment and teams. Gemba walks apply the critical principles of Kaizen such as direct observation, respect for people and scientific problem solving, among others.
Over the years, this practice has gained a lot of popularity and with reason. The effectiveness of this method helps companies increase productivity, improve workplace safety, reduce costs, improve employee motivation, gain a competitive advantage and much more. Once leaders understand the advantages of Gemba, they wonder how to do a gemba walk and how often in order to maximize those benefits.
How frequently should you perform gemba walks?
There is no one-size fits all solution for gemba walks. The frequency of your walks will depend on the type of business you run, what your objectives are and the results you achieve. If you do gemba walks too frequently, you may be losing valuable time and resources whereas if you do them too infrequently, you won’t be able to reap all of the benefits they have to offer. It’s important to find the right balance according to your business’ specific needs.
Factors to consider to determine the frequency of your gemba walks
Who is performing the gemba walk?
One of the most important factors to take into consideration when analyzing how often gemba walks should take place is who is doing the walk. The required frequency of the walks will vary from person to person within the same organization because they have different improvement projects and objectives. For example, a regional manager is likely to perform more frequent walks on the shop floor and in the warehouse than the CEO.
Gemba walks should be performed by more than one person in the same business. Ideally, you should create a gemba team that is composed of different people in managerial positions in order to get different perspectives and find more opportunities for improvement. Make sure to think about each person’s role in the company in order to determine how frequently they should perform gemba walks.
What are the areas you want to improve?
Again, depending on the type of company you are running, you will have more or less areas of improvement. You therefore have to consider how many areas you have in your company and which you wish to improve in order to determine the right frequency of the walks. Depending on the person that is performing the walk, they will be responsible for different areas. For example, a health and safety coordinator is responsible for ensuring the safety of everyone in the entire facility whereas a department supervisor is only responsible for one specific area. The former may therefore have to perform a daily gemba walk and the later a weekly gemba walk depending on the size of the facility.
What are your objectives?
Depending on what your goals are and which processes you want to improve, you may perform general gemba walks every once in a while to gather information or you may go at specific times to analyze certain areas in detail. For example, if you’ve been doing frequent gemba walks to improve the productivity of your production line and have recently implemented changes to improve processes, it may be wise to conduct walks every other day to follow up and see if the changes yield the expected results. If they don’t, you will want to take action quickly and fine tune your strategy.
What results did you achieve?
More than anything, you will be able to adjust the frequency of your gemba walks by analyzing your results. If you go on walks very often and spend a lot of time just catching up with team members instead of gathering insightful new information, it’s probably a good idea to adjust the frequency of your walks. Similarly, if the employees are still uncomfortable answering questions, it’s probably best to increase the frequency of the gemba walks so that they fully understand how their input will benefit them and the company.
There’s no perfect frequency, trial and error will ultimately lead the path. Most companies try different frequencies for different people according to their respective schedules and the results achieved. If you want to achieve your objectives, you should make sure to track how often each gemba walk happens and keep an agenda. This data will prove valuable when the time comes to optimize your strategy.
How can you maximize the benefits of your gemba walks?
The best way to find areas of improvement quickly and implement changes that are aligned with your culture of continuous improvement is to find the right technological ally. This will save you a lot of time and money down the line and help you improve productivity.
The Gembawalk app helps you reduce waste, remove barriers between leadership and workers and reduce data time collection. Our solution allows you to create custom checklists, organize your gemba walk, document issues in detail (photos, videos, etc.), structure and analyze data as well as integrate insights within your management tools. It works both online and offline and lets you generate exhaustive reports. Don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions about our services!