Implementing Gemba Walks, Gemba Walk four RequirementsGemba walks, when supported and executed correctly, will result in increasing leadership and employee engagement, prevent lost time from poorly implemented improvement efforts, and sustain the needed momentum in removing the obstacles that get in the way of solving critical problems related to flow and customer value.

I recently provided a Gemba Walk workshop and one of the participants asked the question, “This workshop is scheduled for the complete day, is there really that much to learn about Gemba Walks?” The question is not that uncommon as the basis for it is what many people perceive about “how” to implement Gemba Walks.

It is simple, the boss tells their direct reports to start Gemba Walks. Managers start going to “The Real Place” (where customer value is added), they cannot see what they need, they do not know how to observe, there is no standard and repeatable Gemba Walk process, they have little or no Operational Management Skills, and Standard Work is not used by both the leaders and the people performing work tasks. The outcome is short term, in less than one or two months, the Gemba Walks become less and less frequent and finally they have stopped, even by the highest leadership position.

Not establishing preparedness is a common mistake made at the beginning of most continuous improvement programs and efforts. Gemba Walks are a key element to the success of these programs, they can be looked at as the thread joining all the essential program elements. Because of this, the preparedness must focus on what are the requirements for successful Gemba Walks, there are four:

  1. Environment
  2. Gemba Walk Process
  3. Standard Work
  4. Operation Knowledge

The requirements are continuously developed as Gemba Walks become ongoing, they do not have to be perfect to start Gemba Walks. Leaders learn as they are Gemba Walking, one of the many benefits, learning. So let’s breakdown some of the devices within these four requirements:


“The place to go to find standards, productivity, cost, people development progress, and project progress”



The workplace and work stations must be organized for efficiency, effectiveness, and safety. Without this methodology it will be difficult to see waste (excess) and brewing problems. With 5S, the wastes will become much more obvious and root causes can be solved in “real time.”

Visual Management

Managing Process with What You Can See, as it is Happening”

If managers, taking Gemba Walks, do not or cannot observe value by going to “The Real Place,” their Gemba Walks will soon stop. Effective Visual Management will facilitate the ability to see and understand  the value they require to do their jobs. Both Visual Management and Visual Control are required to quickly get to evasive root causes, something that creates momentum. But if managers are looking at screens, even within the value stream, that are displaying information transposed from sources like an ERP system, why wouldn’t they just look at the information from their desk, which of course they will? Sources of process information, to be reliable and easily analyzed, must be retrieved and displayed as close to the actual occurrence as possible, this is effective Visual Management.

Gemba STP

5S and Visual Management are methodologies to enable real time problem solving, prevention of potential problems, coaching, engagement, and effective communication. Gemba STP is a method to enable an environment of Support, Teaching, and Promoting. Supporting workers to remove obstacles and provide resources. Teaching to provide and develop the needed operation skills. Promoting the strategy, customer value, an environment of learning, and the needed behavior. These are the main inputs to establish the principle of Respect for People.


Results are more predictable when following a process”

The first step of the process is to Commit, commit to the purpose of your Gemba Walk. Much too often managers assigned to start Gemba Walks are only interested they do not go through a process of being committed. Once committed, then every Gemba Walk thereafter the manager does a quick check if they remain committed or has firefighting diverted them away. The next step of the process is to ensure there is a purpose that is aligned with the achievement of the overall strategy. The Gemba Walk going with purpose will realize daily improvements. The 3rd step of the Gemba Walk Process is to observe. Observation skills must be developed to uncover the “Key Points“ that will improve quality, cost, and delivery. The final step is improvement. Applying a standard and scientific problem-solving process, such as A3, will not only simplify the elimination of chronic root causes but also facilitate the learning process.


Standard Work for Leaders

“Culture cannot be established from behind a desk”

Successful managers follow a standard daily agenda using Standard Work for Leaders. Within these standard tasks are Gemba Walks, usually at least two times a day, no matter the level of the manager. If managers are Supporting, Teaching, and Promoting, two times a day, small setbacks are just that, small setbacks. Managing from an office and reports equal larger and longer setbacks.

Standard Work for Operational Tasks

The Gemba Walk process goes with purpose and most of the time you will need to be able to determine if a task or process has deviated from a known and working standard. If everyone or process is working to different setups, step sequence, or methods then problems will be masked and outputs will have significant variation resulting in poor quality, higher costs, and unpredictable productivity. With the “best known way to do it today,” as the standard, workers can be involved (engaged) in contributing towards the strategy by developing “key points.”


Operations Management is nearly 80% of any organization”

Developing Operation Knowledge is our last requirement for successful Gemba Walks. Managers must be able to understand key measures and what impact they have on quality, cost, and delivery. They must also understand what are the inputs, how they affect the outputs. For example, Cycle Time is a key measure, task or machine time are what will be measured. Improving inputs like standard work and 5S can have a positive effect on task cycle time and improving transportation time within a machine can improve machine cycle time. What happens to Cost when cycle time is improved at a non-bottleneck process? What happens to delivery when WIP is increased? These are just two fundamental questions that should be easily answered and understood by managers. Gemba Walks will develop this expertise through collaboration while walking value streams.

The great news about these four requirements is just by implementing some of the basics to start, preparedness will be enough to create the momentum for sustaining Gemba Walks. Once managers have made it a part of their Standard Work for Leaders, continuous improvement of the four requirements will be automatic.

Lean Teams USA

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