The Gemba walk in 7 key steps: a tool for value creation
Among all the tools and methodologies that exist in Lean, we have already seen a lot of them. Between Jidoka, 5S worksite, Monozukuri, Hoshin Kanri… we regularly bring you information on how to improve your processes, how to reduce your costs, how to limit waste and wastage to be more profitable.
Today, let’s see how the Gemba will help you create value.
The Gemba method: definition and interests
The Gemba Walk is a Lean Management method designed to create added value within a company. The term “Gemba” comes from the Japanese and refers to the field where the work is done, i.e. where the added value is really created.
The Gemba approach consists of going to the field to observe the situation in real time.
The manager is not content with collecting information in the meeting room, but goes to the field to get a more accurate and objective view of what is happening.
The goal of this approach is to observe and identify the problems present in the organization and then find solutions to solve them. More than a simple data collection, the Gemba Walk allows to remotivate the collaborators and to reinforce the team spirit between them.
In addition, the Gemba Walk allows for a review of the current processes and procedures established within the company while maintaining direct contact with the employees (by meeting them in the field).
The Gemba Walk also allows to lead changes with a sustainable impact.
Indeed, this approach contributes to solving the problems of disconnection that can exist between the visions of managers and the perception of employees present in the field.
This is a problem that is often encountered in a company and which could be resolved or at least mitigated by the Gemba Walk.
The Gemba approach is based on 7 key steps
In order to considerably increase the chances of success of your Gemba approach, it is preferable to be rigorous by respecting 7 key steps.
Step 1: Prepare your route
Before going to the field, it is obviously important to prepare your route. It is wise to define one or several precise aspects that you wish to analyze in the field (productivity, safety…). This will allow you to better focus your efforts and avoid spreading yourself too thin. It is therefore necessary to identify exactly the elements to be observed to obtain a more precise and targeted analysis.
It is also wise to gather as much information as possible on the sector and the site you wish to visit, in order to ask more relevant questions to the people present on the field.
Step 2: Select your team
Once you have determined the aspect(s) of the site that you wish to observe/analyze and that you have gathered enough information, you can move on to the second step, which is to select the people who will accompany you in the field.
Indeed, it is better to do the visit with several collaborators rather than alone.
The Gemba Walk should not be limited to one trip by the leader to the field. It is best to include people from different areas and levels of the organization in your team to get different perspectives. This also helps to shed light on certain elements that you might not understand.
Step 3: Observe and ask your questions
Once your team is complete, it’s time to go out into the field to conduct your observations and ask your questions.
This is an opportune time to make direct contact with the people in the field and discuss key issues (problems encountered, challenges faced, opportunities to be seized…).
It is important to formulate your questions in a simple and precise way in order to obtain relevant and constructive answers.
Questions can obviously be prepared in advance, but you must also be able to adapt them to the actual situation observed in the field.
Be open-minded and listen carefully.
Step 4: Focus on observation, not control
It is very important to keep in mind that the objective of the Gemba Walk is first and foremost to observe the field in order to have a more precise vision that is in line with reality.
You must not make the employees on site feel controlled during your visit. You have to show them that you are not there to criticize their work but to observe the situation and to find together solutions to the problems they encounter.
It is essential to establish a relationship of trust with them in order to allow for a constructive dialogue with a view to continuous improvement and value creation.
This is in the interest of all parties involved in the process and will also make it easier to accept the change(s).
Keep in mind to take notes, photos, videos, etc. (of the various elements you deem useful) as you go along (so as not to forget important information).
Step 5: Analysis of the observed elements
Once the visit is over, you can now analyze everything you observed and understood in the field. It is time to take stock of all the elements that you were able to perceive during your visit as well as the remarks of the people who were present.
The objective of this step is first of all to detect the strong points of your company’s processes and thus to understand where the real value creation comes from. But, it is also necessary to detect the difficulties and problems present on your site in order to be able to think of the various possible solutions.
The conclusions that you will draw during this step will be crucial because they will indicate the steps to follow to improve your performance on the ground.
Be careful, however, not to rush into the deployment of solutions. The first step is to analyze what you have observed, and the second is to start thinking about the different solutions that can be applied to your situation.
Step 6: Plan other Gemba Walk on a regular basis
It is important to know that the Gemba Walk should not be a one-time event, as it is a continuous improvement process. It is therefore important to determine and plan several Gemba Walk on a regular basis. Their frequency obviously depends on the situation of your company. It is up to you to judge the number and frequency of Gemba Walk necessary for your organization.
For example, one visit could be focused on the effectiveness of the equipment on site and another could be focused on the safety of the employees on site.
Step 7: Communicate your findings to the teams
Finally, in this last step, you will share with your staff (in the field and in the office) the conclusions you have drawn from your visits. You must communicate to them the positive aspects that you have noticed but also the points to improve (always with a view to continuous improvement).
For example, if you have taken new measures to change certain processes in the field, it will be easier to implement changes in your company if the employees feel included in the Gemba process. It is essential to inform the teams of the new initiatives you want to take in the short (or even medium and long term).
The benefits of the Gemba Walk
Although we have already mentioned the benefits of this method, here is a summary of what a successful Gemba Walk could bring you:
- To have a vision that is closer and more relevant to the reality on the ground
- Reduce the gaps in vision that may exist between the different hierarchical levels
- Establish a stronger link with the members of your team
- Better understand the strengths and weaknesses of processes in the field
- Identify the real source(s) of value creation
- Enable continuous improvement of your activities
SNECI supports you in your Gemba Walk
SNECI has 70 years of expertise in industrial and commercial performance improvement thanks to 450 experts working in more than 50 countries and our 10 subsidiaries, allowing us to have an agile, local, technical and efficient approach.
Our Gemba approach ensures that any project lasts over time and that proven solutions continue to be applied correctly within companies.
PDCA, Jidoka, Poka Yoké, Monozukuri, Costing, are some of the tools, methodologies and solutions we provide on a daily basis to both manufacturers and suppliers worldwide.
If you wish to discuss with one of our experts, do not hesitate to contact us directly via our website or to contact Laura Zimmer by email at Laura@sneci.com who will answer you within 24 hours.