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Gemba Walks: The way to see what is actually happening in your business

Creativity and Innovation

Do you know what is happening in your business?

Not what is supposed to happen, but what is actually happening on the factory floor?

For many managers and leaders, it may have been a while since they actually experienced what it is like where the action happens.

Where the products they sell are manufactured, or where the services you offer are carried out.

So from time to time, it makes sense to actually go to the “actual place” where things are produced to understand how that is currently operating. This way, you and your team may identify innovative ways to improve these operations.

One of the most popular ways of doing this is called the Gemba Walk.

Coming from the Japanese word Genba, meaning “the actual place”, a Gemba walk involves going to see the actual process, understand the work, ask questions, and learn. This is related to the similar concept of Management by Walking Around (MBWA).

It is key part of lean manufacturing process and was developed by Toyota as part of their management processes and principles.

The most important reason to do the walk is to observe and learn. This is how you can identify areas for improvement, such as by noticing something unexpected and asking why until the root cause is identified.

What the Gemba Walk is not about is to be a supervisor for the people doing the activities, micromanaging them or telling them what they are doing wrong. This may bring performance back to the baseline level, but will not result in further improvement over time, which is what innovation should aim for.

Similar to eating your own dog food (which can provide you with unexpected insights about what your customers may experience), going on a Gemba walk can result in valuable insights about what your own teams are experiencing.

So get out there, to the actual place where your business happens, and have a walk around.

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