Gemba Walk: Mangement by Walking Around (MBWA)

What is a Gemba Walk?

Gemba walk , in simple words is a form of “Management by Walking Around” (MBWA).  This is a very powerful tool as it is based on the fundamental principles of lean known as the ” 3G’s of lean ” as listed below. Gemba walk provides a first-hand unpolluted information about your Processes, Products and People.

3 G’s of Lean

Gemba – “The actual place”. This a place of actual work where the value is created

Gembutsu – “The thing”. Products or things which we are interested to improve.

Genjitsu – “The facts”. The real facts that are happening at the place of interest

I like to call Gemba walk as Management by walking around because it allows you to do just that. A 15 minutes Gemba walk has proved to be more effective in resolving flow interrupters for delivery than having hour long status meetings far away in the comfort of the office with unreliable data. When you are out there on the Gemba looking at the actual process, products and people responsible for them, there is no doubt about anything ,  no one can fabricate false information, you can interact with the process owner to resolve problems more quickly. This also helps all the Line Managers to align their priorities to solve problems for more efficient flow of the products through the value stream.

Few things to keep in mind to make this a successful tool:

– Have a clear theme and agenda for the walk

– prepare a list of questions to ask

– Setup a display board for each workstation which help process owner to answer question you will be asking

–  Have the top-most management do Gemba walk along with you at least during the initial phase, that way everyone know that we are serious about improvement

– Be disciplined never miss the gemba walk

– Make sure resources are made available to resolve issues discovered during the walk

– make sure the account abilities are clear and everyone responsible completes their task

Gemba walk  will be a good management tool as long as you use it properly. It can be used to serve various purposes. I will share more about my experiences in later posts. Till then if you have any questions or you need to know  anything  in particular about its implementation and application…. just leave a comment below.

Learning to see the change

As a person who is leading a lean transformation project it is very likely you will sometimes be frustrated thinking nothing is working and people are not changing. Change is a process so subtle sometimes you need skill beyond normal to detect progress. Inability of detecting it and worse being frustrated is but only harmful for the progress of the change process.

The speed of change is dependent on many things like how much people are educated about lean tools, involvement of management, and above all the crisis is the biggest catalyst for change. A good leader will not panic in crisis but will effectively use it to develop and motivate his team to accelerate the change process.

It may not be always possible to accelerate the change process. This is when you need patience and some skills to keep everyone on track. It is very important to know how the change occurs. I did try to explain my understanding in this article “Understanding change” . I don’t want get too much into the psychology of the change , it will be beyond the scope of this post and also because I am not an authority on that subject. Here is an example. We were trying to take control on our shop floor process which were in total chaos. Nobody new cycle time for any operation. There was no standard work, no production plan and many more problems.  It took over a year to completely turn the ship around and it is still changing and improving. We knew what should be the end product but to get there it was not straight forward and many times people did loose faith ,but still had keep it going. At first making people just do things and keeping them aligned daily through gemba walks then slowly doing led to believing. It is a interesting process to see how people start taking responsibility after doing something which they initially did not believe in.