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Lean Six Sigma

Reasons Why Gemba Walk Is Getting More Popular

Part 1 – Understanding Gemba Walking

Gemba (現場) — is a Japanese term that refers to a value creation space. For example, (i) in manufacturing, the factory space is Gemba. (ii) in construction, the site is Gemba. (iii) in tech, the office space is Gemba. Gemba is anything where service providers interact directly with the customers or service.

Glenn Mazur introduced Gemba into Quality Function Deployment (QFD) to create a means of business lifestyle. The idea was — in order to become more customer-oriented, one must be in the shoes of the customer, understand their problems and opportunities, and create viable processing solutions.

Much similar to Management By Walking Around (MBWA), gemba’s sub-role — Gemba Walk is an activity that takes management to the front lines of the development process and teams to understand wastes and opportunities and perform kaizen-based analyzes for business improvements.

Most focus groups and surveys are planned. On the other hand, a Gemba Walk is not scripted or bound by what one wants to ask.

Benefits of Gemba Walks

  • Gemba Walks ensure managers monitor their floor’s (team’s) operational reality. The walk highlights how processes run from floor to floor. When a problem is identified and understood, it results in a beneficial thinking process with solid and innovative outcomes.
  • A Gemba Walk is not necessarily a corrective exercise. It is (and should be!) treated as an encouragement for teams to observe and seek positive outcomes. By doing such, managers are able to focus on how actual the process is being delivered.
  • Gemba Walk participants gain additional backdrop into the SOPs. The leaders can then apply the insights towards improving conditions, tools, and procedures as necessary.

Part 2 – How do Gemba works?

As per Toyota’s Chairman — Fujio Cho, Gemba Walk should consist of three elements:

“Go Seek. Ask Why. Show Respect.”

Let’s understand these three elements.

  • Go Seek: This CTA encourages business leaders to come down once in a while to their business workshops. The idea is to divulge leaders, managers and teams into conversations, small talks, or share ideas and look for things that can be improved.
  • Ask Why: This action identifies and eliminates wastes. All you do is listen to your team and use problem-solving techniques, like Fault Tree Analysis (FTA), to identify root causes.
  • Show Respect: This is a no-joke measure. Encouraging someone can boost their confidence and morale. Not only that, the encouragement is contagious. When you praise one person, the one next to them gets even more motivated.

Another great technique to get Gemba working is “Observation”.

Observation is a great tool. Better Observations Mean Better Decisions.

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy states that observation includes both, noticing and taking action on what you see.

To put it simply,

Understanding = Seeing + Processing

Part 3 – How does Gemba help leaders and organizations as a whole?

Gemba is all about identifying, collaborating and defining goals. It is an efficiency-focused initiative that ensures leaders are able to define business goals in clarity.

By giving structure and goals to a Gemba Walk, you avoid excess subjectivity. Leaders who have integrated Gemba in their activities need to know a process’s target result and official procedure. Thus, allowing distraction-free observation.

Till now, Gemba sounds so good to be true, doesn’t it? Well, what if we tell you that you can actually watch Gemba Walk live, in your space and in your free time! Watch an episode of B/A Television Show’s Undercover Boss. The show revolves around how a CEO join the forces in the front line (SPOILER: Anonymously!) to understand details of how the work is done. Time for some crunchies and munchies!

Part 4 – Tools & Techniques for Gemba Walk

Tool 1 – The Ms

a) The 4Ms

4 sub-pillars of Ms

A 4M is a problem-solving method that follows a typical structure silo. It points at potential causes of production issues. A number of organizations are familiar with and use this concept actively in their production processes. This process allows every associate a confident problem-solver.

As shown in the illustration above, the 4M stands for:

  • Man (Manpower)
  • Machine
  • Method
  • Material

b) The 5Ms

Similar to the 4M, the 5M method is known for its versatility. The process can identify causes, risks, inefficiencies, low quality, and other business process issues.

The 5M method stands for:

  • Man (Manpower)
  • Machine
  • Measurement
  • Method
  • Material

c) The 8Ms

The 8M method is an in-depth analysis procedure to learn the root cause. The process examines a broad set of possibilities that could have caused the problem for the issue to be analyzed.

The 8M method stands for:

  • Man (Manpower)
  • Machine
  • Material
  • Method
  • Management
  • Mother Nature (Environment)
  • Measurement
  • Maintenance

Tool 2 – 8 Wastes

In lean manufacturing, “WASTE” means anything that doesn’t add value to a product. Any cost incurred in a process that doesn’t add benefit to the customer is considered a waste. To learn more about the 8 Wastes, visit our detailed article.

The 8 Wastes of Lean are:

  • Transportation
  • Inventory
  • Motion
  • Waiting
  • Overproduction
  • Over-Processing
  • Defects
  • Skills

Tool 3 – Design Thinking

Organizations are integrating Six Sigma into their business processes. One such technique of Six Sigma is Design for Six Sigma (DFSS). The technique focuses on product and process designs. It emphasizes customers’ needs and how it influence design decisions.

Tool 4 – The 5 Whys

The 5 Whys are part of Root Cause Analysis. They are essential questions that are asked after every answer to a question. Unlike other techniques, this method doesn’t require testing, hypothesis, data, regression or other complex statistical approaches. You just go to someone and ask them — Why?

Part 5 – Effective steps for Gemba Walk

Step 1 – Prepare your team

Let team members know what a Gemba Walk is and why they will be observed during the process

Step 2 – Have a plan

Prepare questions to ask and have a structured plan laid out

Step 3 – Follow the value stream

Follow the flow of value and observe areas with high waste potential that can be optimized

Step 4 – Focus on the process, not people

Gemba Walks are not employee performance evaluations. They are meant for observing, understanding, and improving processes.

Step 5 – Document your observations

Always log your observations and record your findings

Step 6 – Ask questions

Ask who, what, why, where, when and how questions to uncover why operations are performed in a particular manner.

Step 7 – Don’t suggest changes during the walk

Gemba Walks are meant for observations. The action comes after.

Step 8 – Walk in teams

Gemba Walks can be effective in teams, especially if the walk involves people from another department.

Step 9 – Mix up the schedule

Gemba Walks should not be scheduled at the same time. Mix it up to see how processes may change throughout the day or week.

Step 10 – Follow up with employees

Connect with employees to share what you have learned and plan ahead for your next steps.

Step 11 – Return to Gemba

Perform future Gemba Walks to observe the changes you’ve implemented and if they achieved the desired results.

Part 6 – Conclusion

As a sub-concept of Lean Methodology, an effective Gemba Walk can bring in fruitful leadership teams. It enables process improvements, facilitates problem solving and identification, and reduces wasteful activities to align with continuous improvement.

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