Gemba and the Gemba Walk

imageGemba is the Japanese word meaning “where the work is done”. A key LEAN concept is that this is where all the value-added activities are performed. Since this is where value-added activities occur, this is where all improvement actions must take place, not in an office or boardroom.

A gemba walk is actually going to the floor to observe exactly what is being done, the particular sequence and the time it takes, and documenting to determine the source of any muda and where it occurs. See the tools section for example forms that can be used during the gemba walk. This is not a casual activity like the popular management by walking around (MBWA) that involves being seen and talking to people but not doing detailed observations.

The gemba walk involves a disciplined scientific approach that requires time to ensure the accuracy of the observations and the validity of the data. This can be a frustrating exercise. The key is to only observe and document, not step in and help or offer suggestions. If you jump in, offer suggestions and make changes, you may not understand what the root problem is. Your help may wind up being a Band-Aid solution that needs to be completely reworked, resulting in more waste.

The gemba walk is one of the first steps in any kaizen event or improvement event. It establishes a baseline of the present state. This gives us the data we need to draw a process map. Once completed, we are in a position to analyze the data and start the improvement process. Once the improvement process is complete, another gemba walk is done to document the improvements and compare to the original data. This allows us to compare the before and after so we can judge how effective our improvement efforts were, and determine if we have eliminated the root cause of the problem.

Another type of gemba walk is the daily walk by senior management to review the gemba board. This process will be detailed in a subsequent article

What Others Have Said…

Michael developed a LEAN program for our hospital. This involved training both managers and front line staff in LEAN and its application in every department. Two LEAN projects were conducted in an effort to reduce inventory. There was a reduction of $135,000 in pharmacy inventory and $200,000 reduction in OR inventory."
Richard E. D’Alberto, FACHE
President & Chief Executive Officer
Laurens County Hospital

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CEO, Artesian Valley Health System

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VP Clinical Services, Community Hospital

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Human Resource Coordinator
Brown County Regional Health Care
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Loewen Windows

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Henry County Health Center

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Pacific Alliance Medical Center

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Artesian Valley Health System

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Community Memorial Healthcare

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CHI St. Alexius Health

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Johnson Regional Medical Center

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Providence Medical Center

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Government of Manitoba

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Providence Medical Center

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Canada Cases Ltd.

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Two Small Men with Big Hearts

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Investors Group

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Regional Director General
Citizenship & Immigration Canada

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Pacific Alliance Medical Center

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One Legacy

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Personal Banker, CIBC

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