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2016 Shingo Research Award recipient - a 'how to' outline for executives trying to do an effective Gemba Walk. The related book is available on Amazon. Add more info in Version 2 of the book on 'doing a walk in an office' environment and for 'coaching' gemba walkers.
How to Do a Gemba Walk
Get Your Boots on
and Start Walking!
Author E-Book “How to do A Gemba Walk”
A 2016 Shingo Research Award recipient
Definition Gemba Walks
Go to the source to find the facts to make better
decisions, build consensus and achieve goals
• Gemba means “the real place”
• Go “see” first hand, with own eyes what is
really happening vs. what you assume is
• The “Check and Adjust” part of PDCA
• Learning opportunity for walker
– Test actual reality against your assumptions
– More deeply understand what’s really happening
• Separate process & people performance
– 85%+ performance problems are process issues
• GWs can change the culture
– People are afraid they will get blamed
– Change the way you talk about improvement
– Foster more critical thinking
When You See Problems
• What happens? Do you…
– Immediately determine countermeasures?
– What impact does it have on people if leadership
solves the problems?
• Or do you coach the people on how to
– Elite companies use Gemba Walks to drive/align
accountability and to foster more critical thinking
GWs Build Relationships
• Learning opportunity for people visited during
– Better understand why their work is important
– Improve critical thinking skills & confidence
– Increase trust with leadership
Learning to Observe
• Takes time
• Requires a quiet humility
• Takes practice
• Requires patience
• Should be done with respect
• Many abnormalities (exceptions) exist at start of
– Early on GWs might focus on increasing process stability
• Evolve standard work practices
– Difficult to have effective standard work, when
considerable variation exists in the way work gets done
• Create environment to foster critical thinking skills
and improvement action
‘Leader Standard Work’ Type Walks
• Supervisor (multiple times per day )
• Leadership team walk (2 or 3 times per day)
• Value Stream walk (weekly)
• Waste identification walk (a common starting
• Executive walk (people from outside the
facility - periodic)
Walks to See How Problems Handled
• Check on general plant 5S conditions
• Check on a production quality issues flagged by customer
• Observe a huddle at a work cell closely linked to a customer
• Check on standard work sustainment in a new or improved
• Randomly audit team huddle boards for logical layout, info
flow and corrective action
• Waste identification walk (a common starting point)
• Process review for uncovering improvement opportunities
Did you ever wonder
why women live
longer than men?
• Prepare for the Walk
• Do the Walk
– Go See
– Ask ‘What’ then ‘Why’
– Show Respect
• Debrief the Walk
Prepare for the Walk
• Define ‘purpose’ for walk – why doing it?
• Define a scope for the walk – where headed?
• Coach appropriate behaviors to participants:
– One conversation at a time
– Show respect, listen more than you talk
– Make no on the spot judgments, seek to
• Test your assumptions and learn
• Do people in the organization:
– Understand purpose of their work?
– Follow standard work practices?
– Understand performance expectations and why?
– Use a scientific thought process for problem
• Are people inhibited from doing their jobs by
organizational support systems?
Go See #2
• Observe the 5Ms (Man, Machine, Methods, Materials,
• Observe the 3Ms (Muda, Mura and Muri) - they all deal
with capacity utilization
– Muda (8 Wastes) Inefficient/ineffective use of capacity
– Mura (uneven) Inefficient flows and capacity
utilization…sometimes too little, sometimes too much
– Muri (overburden) Work exceeds the capacity - in an office
administrative this looks like multi-tasking as people try to do
several things at the same time
• Develop a deeper understanding of value added, vs. waste,
vs. non-value added but necessary to do - in the current
Ask What, then Why
• Anyone can look around, good observations
• What is the work people are trying to
• What are the targets? Why is that important?
• Why is performance less than desired?
• Why is there backtracking, rework….?
Ask the right questions
Coach employees on more critical thinking skills
• What type of a problem were you trying to solve?
• How did you become aware of the problem?
• What did you (the team) change?
• How did this improvement affect business results?
• What is your next improvement?
Reinforce lean concepts
• How do visual management tools help you?
• How do you know when there is a problem?
At Gemba Seek
Walker’s Seek to Understand
• Future state targets for area observed (what is it, why
is that the target?).
• Current state (what is the current reality, the current
condition, the amount of variation) of the process(es).
• What improvement is being worked to close the gap?
• Is it done in a scientific fashion following some type of
• What obstacles hinder progress
• What was learned from improvement experiments?
• What are the next steps?
• Ask open-ended questions
• Listen more than you talk
• Create a safe environment for people to talk
(it pays considerable dividends)
• Always jump to the 5 Whys, never the 5 Whos
• Don’t remove problem ownership, trust
people to act when they learn to ‘see it’
• Help them learn to see it and gain confidence
Debrief the Walk
• What was done well?
• What could be done better?
• Do questions asked build associates self esteem and knowledge?
• Did the questioner remain humble?
• Did the questioner keep problem/opportunity ownership with
• Do walkers seek to understand where management support
systems are dis-aligned?
Close the debrief by asking these questions:
• Did we make any decisions during the walk today?
• If yes, how are we going to communicate that decision?
• How are we going to follow-up on progress?
Sustain the Gains
• Follow-up on discussion items from past walks
• Align support systems (they often inhibit new
behaviors from becoming a norm)
• Learn how/if good ideas are replicated across
• Coach other Gemba Walkers to become better
walkers and coaches
Takes Practice to Perfect
• Don’t try to do too much on one walk
• Learn how to effectively coach people
– Seeing issues
– Clearing them
– Finding root causes
– Solving them
• Institute cycles of experimentation, learning
What can go wrong?
• If the leader lacks humility it can be a challenge to do
• Don’t teach people too many things in one setting.
• Remember, when you give a CEO type leader, an idea,
it’s like launching 1,000 ships, be careful with what you
• Make certain coaches also ask open ended questions
rather than giving the coachee the answer or telling her
what to do
Don’t try to change the world with a single Gemba Walk!
How To Do A Gemba Walk
• 2016 Shingo Research Award recipient
• More information available, along with host of questions
for different types of walks in the e-book on this subject.
Only $6.99 U.S. https://youtu.be/7qLkzudtfho
• Interested in learning about your experiences with GWs,
insights learned, how it changed perspectives and how (if)
it improved your culture. Please let me know…thanks.
• You are welcome to use this material, would appreciate
your honoring our contribution by referencing the
materials came from the Cumberland Group.
• Michael Bremer
• The Cumberland Group and
• Chicagoland Lean Enterprise Consortium
• Hinsdale, IL 630-235-4210
• “How to Do a Gemba
• “Escape the Improvement