What is Gemba? And Benefits of the Gemba Walk

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Nov 29, 2022

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Optimising resources is the most optimal way for businesses to survive and evolve in today's competitive market. The Gemba kaizen strategy is one of the most efficient methods to increase operational efficiency.

The process is proven to improve the workflow and processes and eliminate wastage of precious company assets and supplies. It also forms the core of Lean Management, a business methodology directed toward increasing quality and value for maximised customer satisfaction.

What is Gemba?

Gemba is derived from the Japanese word "Gembutsu", which means the "real place" or "the actual place where value is created". It was initially used by the Japanese police and TV reporters when referring to a crime scene or place from where they are reporting.

In the context of Lean Management, Gemba walks are widely performed in manufacturing, construction sites, and sales floors where the service providers interact directly with the customers.

For car shops, it can be the floor for auto sales, and for a restaurant, it can be the kitchen. Overall, it functions as a crucial problem-solving practice to control and manage company processes.

Understanding the Gemba Walk

Taiichi Ohno, an executive at Toyota Motor Company, coined Gemba Walk as a workplace strategy focussing on leadership and management. The goal was to minimise wastage and bring about consistent improvements in operations. Understanding that the action of every employee will influence functioning, today, the company has successfully utilised it to gain a big name and reputation. 

Gemba Walk refers to the simple act of walking to a place, like the production floor, to understand the work and progress, ask questions to the floor workers, and learn. The walk is taken by the managers and senior team leaders who want to gain insights into the whole business process. 

Remember, a Gemba Walk is not meant to be a performance evaluation technique, nor is it meant to be a corrective exercise. Rather, it is a value-added approach that allows the leadership to engage with the employees.

The workers can provide details like the work progress, resource utilisation or shortages, if any, find areas for improvement & more. Executives can also understand how the work is done, observe and execute quality management, and conclude if a certain process adds or subtracts value to the company. 

Participants in the Gemba Walks gather additional context for SOPs. They take notes, mark checklists, and take videos and pictures as real-time data to explore ways for continuous modifications. The practice also facilitates easy communication, trust, and transparency among the workers and the managers without merely pointing out the worker's flaws.

Benefits of the Gemba Walk

  • Better Observations for Better Decisions 

Collecting real-time data is the key to a successful Gemba Walk. One has to observe their surroundings, arrange information, understand what is happening and observe to gather all necessary insights. Simply put, it follows the philosophy of "Understanding = Seeing + Observing + Processing."

  • Increased Productivity

Spending on resources only sometimes indicates better productivity. The process of in-depth analysis of business processes and improvement areas is what the Gemba walk is all about. The focus is to remove unnecessary tasks to make the work efficient. 

  • Discipline 

Gemba, or the factory floor, is where one creates magic. Measures like visual management, optimisation, and waste reduction start from here. Employers and workers learn self-discipline and implement it in their work for better results. 

  • Evaluation

The leadership visually evaluates the factory floor to maintain the pre-described standards. They take notes and offer suggestions instead of scrutinising the workers' performance. An in-person observation and overseeing all activities help them propose the right ideas.

  • Communicate   

Smooth communication enables prioritising ideas, and concepts, goal sharing, conveying the purpose of the Gemba Walk and identifying shortcomings. Gemba Walk helps one stay focused, record notes, or use the checklist to find vital concerns and convey them to the workers.

How to do a Successful Gemba Walk?

●  Give a Head Up

A prior announcement about a Gemba Walk will put the ground-level workers at ease while inviting more dedication to the work. A courtesy head-up is to maximise output and impact by bringing more efficiency into work & the observer can analyse the floor. Once the workers are simple and involved in a natural working routine, the observer can gather purposeful and authentic insights from daily operations.

●  Plan and Prepare 

Prepare the inspection team about the process and structure of the Gemba Walk before stepping into the field. A good rule is to include people from different departments to be able to observe better. Plan the walk to cover all crucial aspects and identify priorities. The goal is to observe areas with higher potentials and reduce wastage.

●  Set Questions

While focusing on improvement, the observer should prepare a set list of questions, applying the 5 Why's technique to gather all relevant information from the Gemba Walk. It will improve overall business process efficiency.  

1. Focus on tools use

2. Assess formal preventive maintenance programs 

3. Go through tracking sheets 

4. Evaluate daily maintenance

5. Find reasons for equipment downtime


●  Keep Employees Informed 

Let the workers know about your findings without scrutinising them. Share all your experiences in the process. Make the comments subtle and constructive. It will encourage the formation of better relationships.

●  Deliver Outcomes

Conducting Gemba sessions with the team to deliver expected outcomes is crucial to fostering trustworthy connections with the worker. Telling about work expectations and how they will benefit the company goals and mission is one of the best-proven methods to reinforce worker development.

The observer should also follow up with the team periodically to understand work progress, help them mitigate risks, work on the essential findings & more. They can seek a second opinion to comprehend the operations and gain from a third-person perspective.

● Foster's "Train the Trainer" mentality 

Leaders should be invested in bringing about positive changes within the business. It is also vital to convey the same to the workers by sending signals about the need for incremental improvements.

Harbouring a trainer mentality is good unless one does not become strict. With the worker's active participation, the observer can make minute discoveries besides making the team feel wholly involved.

Who can Participate in Gemba Walks?

The three elements of the Gemba Walk - 'go and see', 'ask why & respect workers' - can be performed by high-level managers, team leaders, or a supervisor who are acquainted with the business core operations.

Popular Approaches Suitable for Gemba Walks

These agendas and theoretical frameworks are the most impactful in improving efficiency in project management using Gemba. 

6Ms that highlight factors surrounding the production process:

  • Method 
  • Mother Nature, aka Environmental
  • Man
  • Measurement
  • Machine
  • Materials

Another lean management technique is 8 Wastes:

  • Waiting 
  • Transporting
  • Overproduction
  • Inappropriate Processing
  • Excess Inventory
  • Excess Motion
  • Defects
  • Underutilised Talent

Design Thinking and including its inherent principles in the Gemba walk:

  • Know and review the process of SOP
  • Analyse Process vs Individual People 
  • Record observations 
  • Identify the next steps 
  • Follow ownership  

Design Thinking, combined with Lean, motivates participants to brainstorm ideas to reach performance targets and develop alternatives through prototyping and a/b testing.


5 W's is an excellent structure followed to ask questions during the Gemba Walk:

  • Who - Who are the people involved in the process that is being observed? Who are the customers?
  • What - What are the process inputs and outputs? What factors will limit product wastage?
  • Where - Where are the tools located? Is the positioning convenient? Is there any waste of motion?
  • When - When are the process inputs received? Is there any waste in waiting observed?
  • Why - Why does the work value in a certain manner to the customers?


Gemba Walk-in Project Management

Gembe Walks are integral to project management since it follows a few core principles that improve and upgrade production operations when implemented. It is directly associated with doing a PMP certification, where you learn the crucial skills of Gemba Walk.

●  Focusing on the customers  

●  Aiming for constant improvements 

● Prioritising operational recovery instead of harshly scrutinising 

●  Acknowledging problems openly 

●  Promoting openness

●  Applying teamwork

●  Managing projects via cross-functional teams

●  Forming appropriate relationships 

●  Keeping workers informed

●  Inspire for development 

Hence, it is evident how Gemba Walks increase learning and assistance through the observation and analysis method and aim for strategic improvement in business processes without sacrificing flexibility.

It also leaves scope for conditional changes by optimising performance, and the workers can resolve wasted opportunities to make the products and customer service superior.

Final Words:

Are you looking for courses for a PMP certification online? Visit Staragile for advanced project management courses that are recognised globally. We focus on helping you stay abreast with the ever-changing industry technologies by expanding your knowledge to deliver successful outcomes.

We are the renowned facilitators of top market-oriented professional project management courses designed to bridge learning gaps, help upskill and meet global needs. You can also access self-paced eLearning, live sessions, and practical training.

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