Gemba Walks, the Place Where Things Happen

“Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time”. Thomas Edison


Gemba walks are a practice used in the Kaizen philosophy that allows us to observe the reality that is happening in the work area in order to improve it.

What does the word Gemba mean? It is the place of work, in other words, it is the place where things happen, where the service or product is carried out, of which we are committed to improve. This means that it is a “walk in the workplace”.

How do you perform a Gemba walk?

This walk varies according to the perspective of the person performing it, for example, the supervisor makes a different walk compared to the Plant Manager. Thus, we will talk about the three types of Gemba below.

Gemba walk for an Area Manager:

This Gemba consists of the Manager walking through the plant with the determination to see the waste and work standards. The idea is to ask questions about how things are done and ask 5 Why? and if he manages to see the root cause, it must be corrected at the moment.

A big problem in the walk is that when the leaders realize they already want to change everything at once, we must remember that the walk is a Kaizen tool and it is a way of thinking which makes us improve little by little.

The more discipline the Plant Manager has to carry out the walk, the more experience will be obtained and the results will be quickly seen.

We complain many times that the workplace is not in optimal conditions or the flow is not typical of lean manufacturing and we want to have it but do not want to spend time improving it either.

Frequency of the walks for an Area Manager: There is not an established frequency but in my experience it is once a day at least, otherwise you will not be able to follow up on what has been done.

Duration of the walks for an Area Manager: I would recommend an hour and always at the same time so that people get used to the discipline and be attentive to improve and share ideas for the next day.

Assistance: It is important that the area manager involves the supervisor of the respective area where he/she goes and that he/she goes with leaders of functional areas for a better execution of the tasks.

Gemba Walk for an Area Supervisor:

This Gemba is slightly different from the Manager’s Gemba because it has to be more focused in an area with the purpose of talking more with its people, determining the problems that arise and focusing on improving the area with them. As the area improves, this area will gradually get feedback from the Plant Manager and from the executives who will help him as facilitators of the process.

Frequency of the walks for an Area Supervisor: There is no established frequency but in my experience 2-3 per shift at least or otherwise you will not be able to follow up on what has been done.

Duration of the walks for an Area Manager: 15 minutes is recommended. If it is not possible, it is recommended to only do it in one place at a time until you can see the total area during the shift and not in a single walk.
Gemba Walk for Executives:

When we have executives as CEOs or Business Managers who are not necessarily on the day of the workplace it is advisable that when they visit the plant they commit themselves to the role of performing Gemba Walk. What does this mean? That they can go with the same purpose as the area or plant manager. Therefore, it is important to indicate them. We must change the culture that not only have meetings with them but also invite them to be in the process of improvement and get their feedback about our workplace.

After doing the Gemba walks, a 20-minute meeting should be held and those who attended the hike should create a list of things to work with their respective manager.