Friday, October 18, 2019

Lean Quote: Nine Reasons Why Leaders Should Be Doing Gemba Walks

On Fridays I will post a Lean related Quote. Throughout our lifetimes many people touch our lives and leave us with words of wisdom. These can both be a source of new learning and also a point to pause and reflect upon lessons we have learned. Within Lean active learning is an important aspect on this journey because without learning we can not improve.


"…there’s a difference between knowing the path and walking the path." — Morpheus

A Gemba walk should be a daily, scheduled time where the manager in a facility is out on the “shop” floor and publicly reviews the shop’s performance as displayed on the visual management boards. Although I use “shop” here, it is a term that describes where the value creation occurs. The shop could be places like the warehouse, the accounting office, and the shipping office or anywhere work is done.

While conducting structured Gemba walks have many benefits, here are nine reasons why leaders should be doing Gemba walks:

  • Gemba walks build relationships with those that do the work and create value in the organization.
  • Interacting with employees at the Gemba enables leaders to uncover problems and eliminate them quickly.
  • Gemba walks provide leaders with the opportunity to praise people for the good work that they do.
  • Management can be sure that the work that needs to be done is getting done.
  • Goals and objectives can clearly be communicated face-to-face.
  • A visible leader can increase employee engagement.
  • Gemba walks can help develop people through coaching and mentoring.
  • Gemba walks can help the leader validate data, emails and spreadsheets with their own eyes.
  • Gemba walks can enable accountability to occur since the leader is not disconnected from the actions or results. When they “see it” they “own it”.

Remember, as the leader engages the people and processes, he or she should always show respect and understand if something is amiss, it is not the individual’s fault, rather the process and the leader are the guilty parties.

As leaders, we should spend the majority of our time on the Gemba engaged with both the people and process. This time should be structured and not what I call “Industrial Tourism” where all the leader does is walk around and shake hands and kiss babies. This is superficial and actively works to disengage employees.

A former President of Toyota once said he spent more than 80% of his time at the Gemba helping solve problems and removing the burden from the workforce. By doing so, he is helping develop those that he encounters and this creates a more engaged workforce.


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