As part of a recent engagement, Bob Payne and I went to assess and coach a group of Agile teams out in Iowa. Each morning, we would arrive before the daily stand-ups. Each morning we walked around, listened in on conversations and got updates from the teams. We quietly studied their large team boards and then how they interacted with the boards and one another. I would describe this daily stroll as our Gemba Walk. Gemba is a Japanese term meaning “the real place.” In business, it refers to the place where value is created; in our case the gemba was the west side of the building on the 5th floor where the teams were located.
In lean manufacturing, the idea of gemba is that the problems are visible, and the best improvement ideas will come from going to the gemba. The gemba walk, much like Management By Walking Around (MBWA), is an activity that takes management to those doing the actual value delivery, to look for waste and opportunities to practice gemba kaizen, or practical shopfloor improvement. If you are in management and you want to make a real difference, get out of your office and go on a gemba walk.
If you are on a project team, do your managers go on a daily gemba walk?