Observation is an important skill for Lean and other methods of continuous improvement. It is necessary to document the ‘before’ process, identify waste, to conduct audits, and to confirm the effectiveness of audits.
Observation is simply the practice of watching a process, preferably several times, to learn about the process.
Observation gives you a greater understanding of what is going on that you could get by hearing or reading about a process. Quite often the description is incomplete or inaccurate.
There is no substitute for ‘Going to Gemba’ and seeing something with your own eyes.
Observation can be done real time, or can be accomplished with a video recording. Video does, however, have some limitations. Some people don’t want to be recorded, and the field of view can be restricted.
Always make sure to keep quiet during your observation (it is amazing what you can take in if you just listen for the 15 sounds of waste). Talking means you are not watching. You can ask questions later.