Don’t avoid these additional types of Gemba walks.

There are several types of Gemba walks—but the most essential point is that leaders need to invest quality time at the Gemba or going and seeing the place where the work is being done. Make sure you’re not trying to sidestep these other types of Gemba walks:

What is a Personal Gemba Walk?

Visit one or more of areas of responsibility by yourself. Go with a specific topic, concern, waste stream, check, audit, confirmation in mind, or just go and see. Of course, they should engage with their team along the way, but the point is these are unplanned and impromptu conversations and engagements with them.

What is the Leadership Gemba?

Go and see with members of your leadership team. This way you observe together and see and hear the same things. Objectives might be to observe the actual conditions, to observe problematic processes, see the results of a recent kaizen or continuous improvement project, provide recognition, or to engage with the teams on a specific topic.

What is the Daily Gemba?

The best way to show your actions are louder than your words. The objective is to remove barriers and help your team achieve their goals.

During the daily Gemba, the teams would provide an update on key metrics and performance from the previous day, recent trends, and identify any current challenges, concerns, or barriers that are impeding their performance or attainment of a target. The leaders can then assist with removing these barriers.

A daily Gemba also ensures that everyone knows, understands, and is aligned to the top priorities for that day. Your daily Gemba should be short and very focused. The challenge is usually to avoid problem solving during a Gemba walk. The daily Gemba should also be a key part of Leader Standardized Work. 

What is an Impromptu Gemba?

Often in discussions or meetings it’s difficult for everyone to understand an issue—and even after explaining, some may not actually get it. By going and seeing, problems can more rapidly be understood, necessary resources and actions agreed upon, and the issue resolved. This is done to assist in and align understanding, to problem solve and determine root cause, discuss counter measures, ask questions of the operators or those involved, or discuss next steps.

Observe, approach, ask, learn.

No matter what type of gemba walk you choose, the most important thing is to be open-minded and to listen to the people who are doing the work. Gemba walks are a great way to learn from your team members and to identify opportunities for improvement. Below are some questions you should be asking when taking any type of Gemba walk.

  • What are you doing now?
  • Is there a standardized process for completion?
  • If there is a process, is it being followed?
  • Are you encountering problems while completing this task?
  • What challenges do you face?
  • What causes the problem?
  • How do you find the root cause of a problem?
  • What can you fix?
  • What can’t you fix?
  • Who do you contact if you need any help resolving a problem?
  • Do you use a visual management tool?
  • Is it useful? If not, why?

How to Make Your Gemba Walk More Effective?

A Gemba walk is the practice of observation and collaboration where real work is being done so that leaders get first-hand experience on their work-related processes. The following tips will help the Gemba walk become more effective:

Identify the purpose for the Gemba walk. Prepare questions to ask and have a structured plan laid out.

Make sure the observed team members know what a Gemba walk is and why they’ll be observed during the process.

Walk in teams. Involve people from other departments to take the Gemba walk with you.

Follow the value stream. Observe where value is created and where the work is done. Observe areas with a high potential of waste that can be optimized.

Focus on processes, not people. Gemba walks aren’t performance evaluations. They’re meant for observing, understanding, and improving processes.

Don’t suggest changes during the walk. Gemba walks are for observation only. Action comes later.

Visualize the gap between the ideal state and what actually happens. Look for opportunities for improvement.

Return to the Gemba to observe the changes you’ve helped implement and observe if they achieved the desired result.