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Go to Gemba

The refrain ‘Go to Gemba’ simply means to go to the place where the work is being done for answers to process questions.

Far too often, kaizen teams will discuss a process while sitting in a conference room. Instead, they should ‘go to gemba’ and be where the action is. Actually being close to the sights, sounds, and smells of a shop floor makes the nuances of a process leap out at you.

More importantly, though, leaders should ‘go to gemba’ on a regular basis. Leading a process from an office doesn’t give the boss a true view of what is happening with the employees. There is no substitute for being in gemba if a leader wants to really understand a process or help a team improve.

I encourage frontline leaders to move their desks close to where their teams are working. If it is too noisy, they can wear hearing protection. If they need privacy, there is probably a meeting room available. The point is to be where the most important part of the job is located-the team.

Being right where the team is located will highlight the frequency of abnormal conditions and other problems that workers face. It also shows a leader’s support for the team, and highlights the importance that he or she places on really understanding how the process is working.

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