Gemba Walk Checklist: How to Conduct a Successful Gemba Walk

Gemba Walk Checklist: How to Conduct a Successful Gemba Walk

Were you aware that recent studies show office employees are only productive 31 percent of the time during an average workday (1)? The root cause of this disturbing statistic revolves around less-than-efficient in-house processes.

One of the ways to combat such a situation is to leverage a tactic known as a Gemba walk. Let us look at this strategy in more detail.

What is the Primary Goal of a Gemba Walk?

Gemba is a Japanese term meaning “a location where value is nurtured” (2). Gemba walks are therefore used by managers to better connect with their employees. This is accomplished through several actions including:

  • Observing how employees function in the everyday work environment.
  • Asking open-ended questions.
  • Notetaking when relevant.
  • Discussing options to improve the efficiency of the company.
  • Encourage feedback in the future.

In other words, understanding common work processes and asking the right questions will allow you to implement numerous improvement opportunities. Now that we have summarized the basic Gemba Walk process, it is an excellent idea to look at the discrete steps themselves with the help of a user-friendly Gemba Walk checklist.

What Steps Are in a Typical Gemba Walk?

Continuous improvement relies on clarity when implementing any strategy. This is why creating a go-to Gemba checklist is often a wise choice. Here are four typical stages of a Gemba walk:

  • Inform employees that they will be passively monitored.
  • Determine what type of insight you wish to gain.
  • Observing workflows without interfering.
  • Recording or interpreting these observations.

Whether taking place on a factory floor or within a high-end office, these steps are general enough to be adapted to multiple distinct scenarios. Having said this, the actual work involved as well as the checklist questions will obviously depend on the industry and the goals you wish to achieve.

All About Lean Management

Any intuitive Gemba checklist is intended to create a value stream. A value stream can be defined as a series of actions taken to produce a predefined result that is beneficial (3).

Furthermore, a successful Gemba walk will focus on the needs of individual team members while simultaneously appreciating the “big picture”.

The analysis itself should also be adapted to the information to be obtained. For instance, studying the environmental impacts of an upcoming construction project may involve creating a checklist template that includes third-party consultations.

The main takeaway point is that while it is crucial to ask questions at the appropriate times, passive observation will provide more insight into a real place. This is different from just obtaining employee feedback.

Creating an Effective Gemba Walk: Common Pitfalls to Avoid

There are also some mistakes made during the Gemba walk by leaders that should be noted before moving on. Among the most common types are (4):

  • Failing to explain a Gemba Walk to employees.
  • Enacting immediate changes as opposed to waiting until the walk has been completed.
  • Only observe a specific portion of the work environment.
  • Focusing on individuals rather than processes.

After all, lean manufacturing and management have always been associated with continual process improvement. Having a proverbial “game plan” in place is therefore extremely significant.

Observe the surrounding environment (such as the shop floor). Consider your main navigation route. Does this path encompass all relevant departments?

Can you view employees without obstructing their routine tasks? Are they going to appreciate what management is trying to achieve in the end? These are some additional relevant questions to answer.

Continuous quality improvement

The modern business ecosystem has experienced drastic changes over the past few years. From hybrid workplaces to keeping talented employees motivated, in-house efficiency can never be taken for granted.

The good news is that there are many free checklists that can be used as templates to formulate a Gemba walk that is suitable for your organization. As always, it pays to rise head and shoulders above the competition.