Are you looking to improve efficiency and productivity in your workplace? One effective method to achieve this is by implementing Gemba walks. But what exactly are Gemba walks and how can they benefit your organization? Gemba, a Japanese term meaning “the real place,” refers to the location where value is created in a business process. Gemba walks involve leaders and managers going to the actual work area to observe and understand processes firsthand.
Performing Gemba walks is crucial for organizations aiming to identify and eliminate waste, improve efficiency, and enhance employee engagement. By directly observing the work environment, leaders can gain valuable insights and make informed decisions to drive continuous improvement. In this article, we explain the key steps involved in performing Gemba walks and how they can benefit your organization.
8 Steps to Perform Successful Gemba Walks
1. Defining the Purpose and Objectives
When performing Gemba Walks, it’s important to clearly define the purpose and objectives to ensure a focused and productive experience. A Gemba walk is a key step in the process of continuous improvement where management visits the workplace to observe operations firsthand.
By defining the purpose and objectives of the Gemba walk, you can effectively communicate what you hope to achieve during this time. Firstly, defining the purpose of the Gemba walk allows everyone involved to understand why it is being conducted. Are you looking for insights into a specific process or trying to identify opportunities for improvement? Clearly stating the purpose helps set expectations for both employees and management, ensuring that everyone is on the same page.
Next, determining the objectives of the Gemba walk provides a roadmap for what needs to be accomplished. This could involve engaging with employees, asking them questions about their work processes, or identifying potential bottlenecks or inefficiencies. Setting clear objectives ensures that your team focuses on specific areas during their observation, maximizing their time on the floor.
2. Communicating the Purpose and Objectives to the Team
To effectively engage with the team during Gemba walks, clearly communicate the purpose and objectives. This step is crucial in ensuring that everyone understands why these walks are being conducted and what is expected from them. By communicating the purpose and objectives of Gemba walks, you can create a sense of direction and focus for the team. It allows them to see how their input and observations contribute to the overall improvement plan.
When communicating the purpose and objectives to the team, it’s important to emphasize the importance of frontline employees’ involvement. Let them know that their input is valued and that their observations can lead to potential process improvements. This will encourage collaboration between employees and frontline teams, fostering a culture of continuous improvement efforts.
Furthermore, by clearly communicating the purpose and objectives, you can also boost employee morale. When employees understand that their opinions matter and that they have a role in making positive changes within the organization, it creates a sense of empowerment. This can lead to increased motivation and engagement among employees during Gemba walks.
3. Selecting the Right Time and Place for the Walk
Choose the right time and place for your Gemba walk to maximize its effectiveness and impact. Timing is crucial, as you want to ensure that employees are present and actively engaged in their work. Avoid conducting the walk during peak production times or when employees may be preoccupied with urgent tasks. Instead, choose a time when there is a lull in activity or during a shift change to capture a variety of perspectives.
Additionally, consider the location for your Gemba walk. It should be an area that is directly related to the process or problem you’re seeking to address. For example, if you’re focusing on safety improvements, conduct the walk in areas where accidents have occurred or near equipment that requires special attention. By selecting the right place, you can gather valuable insights and observations that will lead to meaningful improvements.
4. Preparing and Gathering the Necessary Tools and Resources
Effective Gemba walks require careful preparation and use of the right tools and resources to ensure success and empower employees to drive meaningful change. Before embarking on this walk, it’s crucial to spend time preparing for the activity.
This involves understanding the purpose of the walk, identifying specific areas or processes to observe, and setting clear objectives. By doing so, you can focus your attention on key areas that need improvement and guide your interactions with employees towards achieving desired outcomes.
In addition to preparing mentally, physically gathering the necessary tools and resources is essential for a successful Gemba walk. These may include a notebook or tablet to record observations, a camera for taking pictures or videos of processes, measuring instruments like tape measures or timers if needed, and any relevant documentation such as work instructions or standard operating procedures.
With the Gemba-Walk App, you can easily prepare for and document your walk. The app helps you to create an agenda based on predetermined objectives, assign tasks to team members, plan the route of the walk, take notes and photos in real-time, record observations and save them as part of a timeline view.
5. Observing and Engaging with the Workforce
Engaging with the workforce during Gemba walks allows for valuable insights and fosters a collaborative environment. As you step onto the shop floor or factory floor, you have the opportunity to observe firsthand how tasks are being performed and identify areas for improvement in terms of efficiency and performance.
By interacting with employees in their workspace, you can gain a deeper understanding of their challenges and the impact that certain processes have on their productivity. During your Gemba walk, it’s important to actively listen to the concerns and suggestions raised by the workforce.
The lean management philosophy encourages real-time problem-solving and empowers employees to contribute to process improvement. By engaging with them directly, you create an atmosphere where they feel comfortable sharing their ideas, leading to a more effective continuous improvement process.
In addition to identifying opportunities for process improvement, engaging with the workforce also helps address safety concerns. While observing their work practices, you can spot any potential hazards or unsafe behaviors that might go unnoticed otherwise. This proactive approach ensures that safety issues are addressed promptly, reducing the risk of accidents or injuries on the shop floor.
6. Asking Open-ended Questions and Encouraging Dialogue
As you explore the shop floor or factory floor, take the opportunity to ask open-ended questions and spark dialogue with your workforce, fostering a collaborative environment where their insights and ideas can thrive. Encouraging dialogue is an essential step in performing Gemba walks because it allows you to gather valuable information from the people who are directly involved in the work processes. By asking open-ended questions, such as “What challenges do you face in your daily tasks?“or “How do you think we can improve this process?“, you invite employees to share their thoughts and suggestions freely.
Engaging in dialogue during Gemba walks also helps build rapport with your workforce. As a leader, actively listening to their responses and showing genuine interest in their perspectives will make them feel valued and heard. This not only boosts morale but also encourages employees to contribute more actively to problem-solving and continuous improvement efforts. Remember, it’s important to create a safe space where individuals feel comfortable sharing their opinions without fear of judgment or retribution.
7. Documenting and Analyzing Findings
During Gemba walks, it’s important to document and analyze findings in order to visually capture the insights gained from observing and interacting with employees on the shop or factory floor. Documenting the findings allows for a record of the observations made during the gemba walk, ensuring that no valuable information is lost or forgotten.
To facilitate this process, the Gemba-Walk App has a user-friendly interface that allows for easy recording of observations, with features including issue documentation, note-taking, and capturing photos. After a Gemba Walk is completed, the analytics dashboard shows all of the data collected in an easy-to-understand format for further analysis.
Once the findings have been documented, it’s essential to analyze them in order to identify trends, patterns, and areas for improvement. This analysis helps understand issues or bottlenecks that may exist within the company process. By analyzing these insights, you can optimize processes and enhance overall productivity.
8. Identifying Areas for Improvement and Setting Action Plans
To identify areas for improvement and set action plans, you need to actively involve the employees on the shop or factory floor and collaborate with them to develop solutions that address any bottlenecks or inefficiencies. During Gemba walks, it’s crucial to engage in open conversations with the workers and listen to their insights about daily operations. By doing so, you can gain a deeper understanding of their work processes and identify areas that require improvement.
This collaborative approach ensures that employees feel valued and empowered, leading to more effective problem-solving. Once you’ve identified areas for improvement through the Gemba Walk, the next step is to set action plans. This involves analyzing the findings from your observations and discussions with employees. Look for patterns or recurring issues that hinder productivity or quality.
Based on these findings, develop specific improvement actions that target these problem areas. These action plans should be clear, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART goals). Involving employees in this process helps ensure ownership of the action plans and increases commitment to implementing them.
Digitize your Gemba Walks
Have you ever struggled to remember everything you saw in your Gemba Walk? Well, struggle no more! The Gemba-Walk app is the ultimate tool to digitize and track your Gemba walks. It provides a complete history of all the walks conducted at various sites, allowing for better collaboration among stakeholders and improved strategy development.
Not only will this app help organize and track your walks with ease, but it also provides invaluable insights into trends over time. This allows businesses to be proactive in their decision-making processes by leveraging data gathered from past Gemba walks.