Wednesday, July 1, 2015

The Gemba is our Lean Classroom


Human beings can definitely learn by hearing, reading, watching, seeing, and analyzing…but when it comes to getting results there is no better way than to learn by DOING.

If you want to learn how to drive, you have to drive. Humans are natural learners. They learn from everything they do. When they watch television, they learn about the day's events. When they take a trip, they learn about how to get where they are going and what it is like to be there. This constant learning also takes place as one works.

Learning by doing, also known as experiential learning, happens when you use hands-on learning to engage in an ongoing cycle of action and reflection, deepening your understanding of concepts and mastering practical skills. As you take part in meaningful activities—instead of simply watching them—and then later evaluating what you have learned, learning is far more meaningful, memorable, and long-lasting.

Leaders/coaches assist in this process by facilitating appropriate experiences through which you can learn, and by leading discussions that reflect on those experiences. Learning comes from the floor, from the Gemba, where the condition occurs.

The word 'Gemba' is a Japanese word that means the real or actual place. You need to go to the real place and experience these conditions for yourself before being able to take the next steps.

Management must go to the Gemba to practice Lean management. Gemba walking teaches us to see in new ways what we have failed to see before. There you can identify problems, non-value added activities, or wastes through a deliberate observation of a particular area or process.

Learning requires two elements to be truly successful overtime:

PRACTICE: After completing a learning experience, create opportunities to apply what you learned as soon as possible and many times to refine your ability.

EXPERIMENT: Take a risk and try something new, even if you aren’t all that comfortable. We can learn as much, sometimes more, from our mistakes than from getting it right the first time.


Everything can contribute to our experience of learning. But as you may realize, learning is incomplete if we don't experiment and practice. These activities can only occur in the Gemba and for that reason I say the Gemba is our Lean classroom.

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