'Going to Gemba' is the act of visiting the shop floor in Lean and Kaizen. Literally translated as 'The Real Place', it pushes the importance of leadership understanding what is happening at every level.
Image credit: The Lean Post
Gemba (現場, also spelt less commonly as genba) is a japanese term meaning "the real place." Japanese police could refer to a crime scene as gemba, and TV reporters often refer to themselves as reporting live from gemba.
In business, however, gemba refers to the place where value is created. The most common use of the term is in manufacturing, where the gemba is the factory floor. Beyond this, gemba can really be any "site", such as a building site in construction, the sales floor in retail, or somewhere the service provider interacts directly with the customer e.g. a car dealership showroom.
VIDEO: Shut up and Go to Gemba, TEDx
In lean manufacturing, the whole point of gemba is that problems in a business process or production line are often easily visible, and the best improvement come from going to 'the real place', where leaders can see the state of the process for themselves.
"Go see, ask why, show respect"
Over the course of a Gemba Walk, leaders, managers and supervisors are expected to simply observe and understand process. As part of the Kaizen methodology, it is also supposed to encourage greater communication, transparency and trust between the lower-level of employees and leadership. For this reason, it is not appropriate to use a Gemba walk to point out employee flaws, or enforce policy - this runs the risk of employees putting up barriers to leadership, or closing off altogether.
Take a look at Mike Serena's best advice for a positive Gemba walk - read the full article here.
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