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Closely related to management by sight is the idea of the Gemba. Japanese in origin, it means ‘the real place’. In Lean Manufacturing, the Gemba refers to the place where the work is actually taking place. This may be the shop floor, a production cell, a work station etc.
The basic idea is managers need to get up and actually go and observe where the work is really being undertaken, so as to solve problems and continually improve processes. Only by going to the Gemba can managers fully understand a process and any issues that may arise. ‘Gemba Walks’ should be undertaken frequently, with those in authority spending a sizable portion of their time where production actually takes place, talking to employees directly involved and observing the processes in action.
Only by going to the Gemba will managers obtain the real facts and data necessary to make the best decisions, and therefore resolve problems and drive improvements.
Gemba walks also have additional advantages, many based on good management practice. By building Gemba walks into your routine, at least daily, many of these benefits can be realised. Gemba walks demonstrate management visibility, encourage communication between managers and workers, as well as build trust. In addition, approachability is encouraged, as is an opportunity to ask questions and provide answers.
The Gemba walk provides a chance to reiterate the purpose of lean activities and encourage the use of tools like 5S and 7 wastes. It is also an invaluable opportunity to provide feedback, give praise and show recognition. Good practice should be recognised and actively encouraged.
The legendary Jim Womack offering some sage words on Gemba and Gemba-related activities
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