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GEMBA WALK: MUCH MORE THAN JUST “GOING TO SEE”

LAA-Blog - Gemba Walk

GEMBA WALK: MUCH MORE THAN JUST “GOING TO SEE”

We launched the Gemba Walk Deep Dive project to discover how different organizations carry out Gemba Walks, identifying what challenges the faced, the benefits and which deployment approaches were used to develop leaders, engage employees and collaboratively solve problems under a continuous improvement mindset.

During this research project, it has been identified that organizations follow different methodologies and pursue different objectives when they do Gemba Walks. Therefore, the outcome will be to consolidate the findings after interviewing experienced practitioners from different sectors. The purpose of this collaborative research project is fully aligned to the Lean Analytics Association (LAA) mission of enabling companies to share their successful experiences to inspire and engage other organizations to achieve similar results to impact their business.

Gemba (現場) also spelled “genba” is the Japanese term for “actual place” often used in business to identify the place where the value is created. The term is used to stress that improvements require direct observation of current conditions where work is done. In a manufacturing environment, a Gemba Walk is the action of walking around the shop-floor while having as main objective the identification of problems and improvement ideas aimed to address these latter problems.

Although the Gemba Walk seems to be a well-known practice in the lean ecosystem, only a few have shared insights about it, especially how companies actually make it a reality in their own settings and how it is adapted to transform their business culture. Furthermore, there is a lack of common understanding about what Gemba Walk is and how this practice could be deployed. What the evidence has reflected so far, is that the Gemba Walk strength relies not only “to go and see where the action takes place” to find problems, but it is also key to coach and ensure leaders interact successfully with employees, asking the right questions, engaging and empowering teams to implement the agreed actions following a PDCA mindset.

The identified general misunderstanding the of Gemba Walk practice, together with the absence of a clear methodology to implement Gemba Walks effectively across industries would inevitably lead organizations to miss the real potential and opportunities concealed beyond this practice.

We have developed the i-LEAD² Collaborative Research Methodology to launch and manage research projects with different organizations. In the Identify phase, it is key to state clearly the objective, research questions to answer and scope to align all the stakeholders joining the project ensuring everyone is aligned.

Figure 1. i-LEAD² – LAA Collaborative Research Project Management Methodology

Once identified that Gemba Walk is very relevant to inspire others to find and solve problems in a collaborative way, the next step has been the Learn Phase to discover what has been published so far to understand the state of the art. Thus, the team performed an extensive review of the Gemba Walk literature including books, academic publications, articles, consultants’ resources, training courses and workshops searching not only academic publications but also what consultants and practitioners have shared. Figure 2 shows the main books identified related to Gemba Walks.

Figure 2. Some of the Gemba Walk books reviewed in the Learn Phase

In addition, an open survey was published in LinkedIn from March to May 2018 in order to perform a cross-industry analysis by collecting information, direct experiences, individual perspectives, and practices with regards to Gemba Walks from different industries as observed in figure 3.

Figure 3. Percentage of open survey’s respondents working per industry (sample = 81 respondents)

Once developed a thorough understanding of Gemba Walk through the formalization of the state-of-the-art of this practice, we pursued our research methodology by exploring how companies are currently implementing effectively Gemba Walks across their organizations.

As in all research projects, since February 2018 we have extended an open invitation to experienced companies who are doing Gemba Walks to participate in this collaborative project via different social media channels. So far 11 organizations from 9 different countries have joined the project. Currently, we are interviewing and documenting the company-specific Gemba Walk best practices from these organizations.
As a result, individual reports will be delivered to each participating company by the end of August 2018 and after their final approvals, the individual cases will be integrated into a Gemba Walk Best Practices consolidated publication.

Figure 4. Gemba Walk Deep Dive project participants

In addition, the final results of the Gemba Walk Deep Dive project will be exchanged between the participating companies in a live session. The session will take place on September 7th 2018. After this session, a panel will be organized in the Lean Innovation Forum in London on November 15th to formally conclude the Gemba Walk Deep Dive project.

If you are interested to know more about the outcomes of this research project, do not hesitate to contact us via email to: info@lean-analytics.org

Stayed tuned for more updates to be shared from the cases resulting from this Gemba Walk Deep Dive project. We are convinced the lessons learned will be beneficial to spark interest in more organization to gain the benefits!

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR(S)

MYRNA FLORES
Lean Analytics Association

Dr. Flores is co-founder and president of the Lean Analytics Association (LAA) and visiting scholar at the College of Management of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL) Switzerland.

She has over 20 years of experience collaborating as an internal or external consultant in different manufacturing and services organizations, leading several initiatives related to LeanThinking, Business Process improvement, Six Sigma, Supply Chain, Change Management, Open Innovation, Digital Transformation and Human Centered Service Design; providing also training and coaching.

She carried out her Post-doc at EPFL collaborating at the Lean Product and Process (LeanPPD) FP7 European project from 2009 to 2013. She completed her PhD in 2006 at the Politecnico di Milano studying Open Innovation Models to enable Industry-University collaboration for innovation. She obtained her Master’s Degree in Manufacturing Systems in 1999 and a Bachelor’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering from Monterrey Tec (ITESM) in 1996.

MATTEO FRIGERIO
Lean Analytics Association

Mr. Frigerio supports the Lean Analytics Association (LAA) in developing lean innovation and lean management research projects.

Matteo is a management engineer passionate in lean, with over 6 years of experience in production system design and lean program implementation in the manufacturing industry. He holds a MSc in Management Engineering from the University of Bergamo, and a MAS in Management, Technology, and Economics from the ETH Zurich. For his master thesis, he developed a lean assessment tool in collaboration with the Swisscom lean management & continuous improvement department in Bern. Currently, he is continuing his research in the areas of lean innovation and lean management as part of his collaboration with LAA.

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Myrna Flores
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