Frequent meetings and conferences don’t really add much value to the work process in particular. For managers and owners, it is absolutely important to decode and understand processes and operations, so as to find the possible ways to improve function and productivity. A Gemba walk is an exercise, where managers to the real place of work, talk to people and employees, observe the flow of work, and note down the details to find ways of bettering each step. Gemba, which means ‘The real Place’ in Japanese, is important because it offers a much deeper insight into how businesses run and can do better.
Aspects for a successful Gemba walk
First and foremost, managers need to understand that Gemba walk is about the process, and it is not about employees or how they perform. It should not be considered as a bossy exercise and must be done in a way that everyone is participative to the process. What also matters is how the exercise is being done. It is not always about manual work or writing down everything in a rush. For Gemba walks, now we have apps like the one by Tervene, which allow managers to add text, images, and videos, which can be used later. It is also necessary to work with the end employees and people who are doing the repetitive jobs, so as to understand their insight on how methods and means of processes can be changed.
Things that must be avoided
Gemba walks must be a regular thing for any business. Ideally, businesses should consider a Gemba walk at least once a fortnight or a week, but it depends on many things, including the process. The attitude of the first-line managers is also important. You cannot use Gemba walks as a means to find fault in people. It is also absolutely important to avoid suggestions during the walk. Ask questions, get answers, but don’t intimidate the people. One of the biggest mistakes that often happens is treating the Gemba walk as the same process as Management by Walking Around. The latter is a hands-on means of management, and it doesn’t have to be about observation.
It is necessary to invest time and effort in Gemba walk, without rushing the process. Everyone working at the ground level should be well aware of what the process and exercise means and must be a part of it.