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Taking a Gemba Walk

In a keynote session at the 2011 IndustryWeek Best Plants Conference, LEI Founder James Womack explains the purpose and practical details for taking a “gemba walk,” a walk across a value stream to grasp the current state. Watch a video of the presentation at:

Read excerpts from Gemba Walks, a collection of Jim’s essays on visiting companies implementing lean management, or post a question to learn more.

Taking a Gemba Walk

  1. 1. Gemba Walks Industry Week Best Plants Conference Atlanta, GA Jim Womack, Senior Advisor, Lean Enterprise Institute April 5, 2011
  2. 2. Who Am I? <ul><li>Founder and CEO of LEI, 1997-2010. </li></ul><ul><li>Senior Advisor to new CEO John Shook. </li></ul><ul><li>Author, mostly recently of Gemba Walks . </li></ul><ul><li>Gemba walker to grasp the situation and learn! (“Go see, ask why, show respect.”) </li></ul><ul><li>Happy to be here, after gemba walks at two of the IW Best Plant winners. </li></ul>
  3. 3. Who Are You? <ul><li>Line managers in manufacturing operations. </li></ul><ul><li>Leaders and members of process improvement teams (staffs). </li></ul><ul><li>Leaders and members of various vertical functions: IT, HR, product engineering, finance, purchasing, etc. </li></ul><ul><li>And…consultants. </li></ul>
  4. 4. Gemba Walks A management practice to grasp the situation before taking action ACTION CHECK STUDY PLAN DO GRASP the SITUATION HYPOTHESIS TRY REFLECT ADJUST
  5. 5. Gemba Walks <ul><li>Where? </li></ul><ul><li>What? </li></ul><ul><li>Why? </li></ul><ul><li>How? </li></ul><ul><li>Who? </li></ul><ul><li>When? </li></ul>
  6. 6. Where? <ul><li>On the gemba: The place where value is created; where value-creating work is done: </li></ul><ul><li>Primary: </li></ul><ul><li>Engineering </li></ul><ul><li>Operations </li></ul><ul><li>Customer support </li></ul><ul><li>Support (incidental work): </li></ul><ul><li>Line management </li></ul>
  7. 7. What? <ul><li>A horizontal journey along a value stream (a value creating process ) across departments, functions, and organizations to facilitate: </li></ul><ul><li>A transformational leap in performance. </li></ul><ul><li>Sustainable improvement through PDCA. </li></ul><ul><li>Coaching the next generation of line managers and improvement staffs. </li></ul>
  8. 8. Why? <ul><li>Organizations are vertical & complex, but… </li></ul><ul><li>Value flows horizontally across organizations to customers. </li></ul><ul><li>Managers look up toward the top (the CEO) for direction, but… </li></ul><ul><li>All value is created at the bottom where the actual work is done. </li></ul><ul><li>A gemba walk helps managers see and reconcile the horizontal with the vertical. </li></ul>
  9. 9. How? <ul><li>The unit of observation is a value creating process – a product family value stream. </li></ul><ul><li>A process is simply a sequence of actions that must be taken correctly in the correct order at the correct time to create value for some customer. </li></ul><ul><li>All horizontal processes flow through vertical processes in a value creating system: Action, process, system. </li></ul>
  10. 10. How? <ul><li>Select a value stream. (Any primary or support stream will do.) </li></ul><ul><li>Gather everyone touching the value stream and talk a walk together. </li></ul><ul><li>Ask about: </li></ul><ul><li>Purpose (solve the customer’s problem) </li></ul><ul><li>Process (how it actually works) </li></ul><ul><li>People (how they are engaged in creating, sustaining & improving the process) </li></ul>
  11. 11. How? <ul><li>Draw a current state map….or not, depending on the circumstances. </li></ul>
  12. 12. Current-State Value Stream
  13. 13. How? <ul><li>The objective of a gemba walk is not to draw a map, or to solve a specific problem, or to Plan or Do or Check or Act. </li></ul><ul><li>It is to grasp the situation by involving everyone touching the process to understand purpose, process, and people. </li></ul><ul><li>Once the situation is understood improvement is possible and more likely to succeed. </li></ul>
  14. 14. Who? (The Hard Part) <ul><li>Ideally, the CEO and COO with the function heads, customers, suppliers, and value stream leader ! </li></ul><ul><li>More realistically, the value stream leader and those directly touching the stream. </li></ul>
  15. 15. Who? (The Hard Part) <ul><li>But today… </li></ul><ul><li>The CEO and COO usually lack both knowledge and courage. </li></ul><ul><li>There is no person responsible for the performance of most value streams – a value stream leader. </li></ul>
  16. 16. Who? <ul><li>How about you? </li></ul><ul><li>The operations manager for a facility. </li></ul><ul><li>The product line manager. </li></ul><ul><li>The head of the improvement team. </li></ul><ul><li>The purchasing manager looking up stream. </li></ul><ul><li>The sales manager looking down stream. </li></ul>
  17. 17. When? <ul><li>Before commencing a lean transformation in a value stream. </li></ul><ul><li>Multiple times a year for each value stream to refresh gemba knowledge and keep the management team focused on cross-functional problems. </li></ul><ul><li>Weekly or daily to grasp the changing situation in real time. </li></ul>
  18. 18. An Example of the Latter <ul><li>A daily management gemba walk for the senior executive and the function heads: </li></ul><ul><li>The 8 am walk through the fulfillment value stream to asses the situation. </li></ul><ul><li>The 10 am walk across all verticals to address value stream issues in real time. </li></ul><ul><li>Note: An obeya meeting in a product development process is another form of a cross-departmental gemba walk. </li></ul>
  19. 19. Gemba Walks <ul><li>The best way to truly grasp your situation as an organization – as a community of value creation – so that good, lean things can happen. </li></ul><ul><li>A practice you can learn by practice and continually learn from practicing. </li></ul>