Many business owners dedicate a huge chunk of time and effort to continuous improvement, focusing mainly on measurable performance indicators. For example, they look at production cost, speed, error rates, customer satisfaction ratings, and other tangible business metrics to identify improvement opportunities.
At the same time, this method also assesses the effect of changes that they implement. However, some are non-quantifiable—improvement opportunities or process problems that business owners and team leaders alike have to see with their own eyes to understand.
For these matters, a Gemba walk is a great approach. This article will discuss what a Gemba walk is, specifically, a Gemba walk checklist, and why you should start incorporating this method into your business operations.
What is a Gemba Walk?
Gemba is a Japanese term that means “the real place.” In a Gemba walk, the leader gains first-hand insight by going to the workplace and assessing the target process. Unlike the traditional practice of ‘Management By Walking Around,’ the Gemba walk is structured and performed with utmost intention and purpose.
A Gemba walk checklist is a problem-solving tool used mostly by management leaders to help assess a process and identify improvement areas. It also allows them to take note of the current situation, understand how employees do their work, and get ideas for possible changes or improvements. Furthermore, it can be used to reference matters with concerned parties.
Purpose of Gemba Walks
The main objective of a Gemba walk is to observe, listen, learn, and understand the current state of a process. It is an effective and efficient method that enables management leaders to know what’s working and what’s not by being in the actual place of work and seeing how the employees operate.
Gemba walks are not audits, per se. Therefore, they should not be used to point fingers or find someone to blame. Rather, they are conducted to understand the situation and find ways to improve it. After all, the goal is to improve things for everyone – employees, customers, and the business.
Gemba walks are structured and performed according to a particular intention. Good examples include standard work, customer service, safety, productivity, cost-efficiency, workspace efficiency, and creativity. In addition, Gemba walks are also done for the following purposes:
- Identify issues and gain valuable insight on how to improve them.
- Reduce existing wastage and find ways to eliminate or prevent them.
- Encourage employees to give suggestions on how they can improve their work.
- Build a good relationship with employees and understand their sentiments about the company, job, etc.
- Get ideas for process improvement from the people who do the work.
- Discuss goals and objectives with employees
- Establish stable and lasting relationships with people doing work and creating value.
3 Elements of an Effective Gemba Walk
Gemba walks take time, effort, and planning to be effective. But, if done correctly, it can enable the leader to become an integral part of continuous improvement initiatives like layered process audits (LPAs) and Kaizen events. In addition, it helps leaders see and understand processes through the employees directly involved in the particular work.
To achieve a productive and insightful Gemba walk, leaders need to follow three essential elements:
Walk around the workplace and observe if the processes are being carried out as they should be. Do not rely on what you see on paper or what employees tell you. Instead, see how the work is done and note any problems or issues you see.
This is the best way to understand the actual process and identify potential areas for improvement. It also allows you to get ideas from the employees on how they think the process can be improved.
Next, the one performing the Gemba walk must ask employees and other concerned parties questions. This is done to better understand the process and why things are done in a certain way. It also allows you to get more ideas on improving the process.
Asking questions also shows your genuine interest in understanding the situation and finding ways to improve it. This can encourage employees to be more open and cooperative during the walk. Techniques such as the ‘5 Whys’ can identify problematic areas of a process and ensure that they address the root causes of problems.
Finally, collaborate with the employees doing the work to understand the challenges. Then, determine how to address them without compromising safety, quality, or productivity.
Respect their time and do not interrupt them while they are working. Let them know that you appreciate their work and value their input. This will help establish a good rapport and make the Gemba walk more productive. Remember that a Gemba walk should focus on the issue, not worker performance.
How To Perform a Gemba Walk?
Performing a Gemba Walk requires preparation and planning. It is suggested that leaders follow the following steps:
Step 1: Define the Purpose
Before you start your Gemba walk, clearly define its purpose. Are you focusing on safety, productivity, efficiency, or customer satisfaction? Having a clear direction will make your Gemba walk more efficient and purposeful.
Step 2: Develop a Checklist
A Gemba walk checklist is an essential tool. It guides the walking process by outlining what to look for and ensures nothing important is missed. Include points that align with your purpose and are specific to your business processes.
Step 3: Communicate with Employees
Inform your team about the upcoming Gemba walk. Ensure they understand the purpose, when it will occur, and that it’s not a method for placing blame or policing. Transparency will help ensure their cooperation, making the process more effective.
Step 4: Conduct the Walk
Walk around the workspace, observing the current state of affairs. Refer to your checklist and ensure all areas of interest are covered. Take notes of your observations, positive and negative, and avoid making premature judgments or changes.
Step 5: Ask Questions
Engage your staff with open-ended questions to understand their perspective of the process. Use techniques like the ‘5 Whys’ to delve deeper into problem areas and understand the root cause. Remember, this is a learning exercise, not an opportunity to dictate or criticize.
Step 6: Show Respect
Respect your employees’ time and work process. Do not interrupt them unnecessarily, and always appreciate their input. This will make them more willing to engage and share their thoughts during the Gemba walk.
Step 7: Review and Analyze
After the Gemba walk, review your notes and observations. Identify key insights related to your defined purpose and prioritize areas for improvement.
Step 8: Implement Improvements
Create an action plan based on your observations to implement necessary changes. Collaborate with your team to ensure these changes are feasible and will lead to real improvements.
Step 9: Follow Up
After implementing changes, schedule another Gemba walk to assess the effectiveness of the improvements. This reinforces the cycle of continuous improvement and shows your team that their input has a tangible impact on the work process.
What is a Gemba Walk Checklist?
A Gemba Walk Checklist is a structured guide used during a Gemba walk to ensure thorough observation and assessment of the workplace. This tool typically includes specific points or questions about safety, efficiency, quality, and other relevant aspects of the evaluated process.
Gemba Walk Checklists help leaders focus on their walk’s defined purpose. The checklist can be customized to suit each organization’s unique requirements and objectives, enabling leaders to identify bottlenecks, inconsistencies, and opportunities for improvement. It serves as a roadmap, ensuring leaders obtain the most value from their Gemba walks by not overlooking critical areas.
What Items To Include in a Gemba Walk Checklist?
The items included in a Gemba Walk Checklist will depend on the specific purpose of the walk and the nature of the work processes being observed. However, some universal aspects can be part of any Gemba Walk Checklist. Below are key sections with possible checklist items:
- Are all safety procedures being followed?
- Is the workspace free from hazards?
- Are safety tools and equipment available and in good condition?
- Are employees wearing appropriate safety gear?
- Are the tasks streamlined and free from redundant steps?
- How much time does it take to complete a task?
- Are there any bottlenecks in the process flow?
- Are there any visible quality issues with the products or services?
- Are quality checks being performed as required?
- Is there any waste or rework?
- Is the condition of tools, equipment, and workspace satisfactory?
- Are there preventive maintenance schedules in place?
- Are machines and equipment running smoothly and efficiently?
- Are employees engaged and motivated?
- Do they have the required skills for their tasks?
- Are they willing to provide feedback and suggestions?
These are just examples, and the actual items in your Gemba Walk Checklist should be relevant to your specific objectives and work processes. Feel free to take these suggestions and create your customized Gemba Walk Checklist. With clear goals, preparation, and effective tools, you can make the most of your Gemba walk and ensure real improvements to your workplace.
Create a Gemba Walk Checklist Using a Low-code Platform
If you want to make the most of your Gemba Walk Checklist, it’s important to choose a tool that tailors to your needs and is easy to use. Low-code platforms are great options as they provide an intuitive drag-and-drop interface that makes it easy to develop powerful digital solutions. You can create a Gemba Walk Checklist with minimal coding knowledge and get up and running quickly.
Using a low-code platform, you can include features like data analytics, video streaming, notifications, multi-language support, and more to make your checklist interactive and engaging for your team. You can also develop custom forms to capture relevant information during the walk and quickly analyze it afterward.
Developing a Gemba Walk Checklist with a low-code platform is easy, intuitive, and saves time. With the right tool, you can develop an effective checklist that helps you optimize work processes and achieve maximum efficiency.
Why Use DATAMYTE?
DATAMYTE is a quality management platform with low-code capabilities. The DataMyte Digital Clipboard, in particular, is a low-code workflow automation software that features a checklist and smart form builder. This tool lets you create a comprehensive Gemba Walk Checklist to use and share with your team.
To create a checklist or form template using DATAMYTE, follow these steps:
- Log in to the DATAMYTE software and navigate to the ‘Checklist’ module.
- Click “Create Checklist.”
- Add a title to your checklist or template; select the category where it belongs.
- Start adding items to the checklist or template by clicking “Add Item.”
- Define the description of each item, what type of answer it requires, and other relevant specifications (e.g., reference documents, acceptance criteria, limits).
- Assign a team member responsible for inspecting using the checklist or template.
- Add signature fields for approvals (e.g., supervisors, quality assurance personnel).
- Save the checklist or template—you can now access it anywhere, and it will be available on any device.
DATAMYTE also lets you conduct layered process audits, a high-frequency evaluation of critical process steps, focusing on areas with the highest failure risk or non-compliance. Conducting LPA with DATAMYTE lets you effectively identify and correct potential defects before they become major quality issues.
With DATAMYTE, you have an all-in-one solution for creating and implementing Gemba Walk Checklists. Book a demo now to learn how DATAMYTE can help you optimize your processes and make the most of your Gemba walks.
Gemba Walk Checklists are essential tools that enable organizations to identify and resolve issues in their work processes. With a comprehensive checklist, leaders can ensure they cover all relevant areas during their walk and obtain maximum value.
Using a low-code platform like DATAMYTE, you can create an interactive and engaging Gemba Walk Checklist that helps your team optimize processes and achieve the desired results. Get started now and see how DATAMYTE can help you get the most out of your Gemba walks!