Tag Archives: waste walk

Don’t Just Do Something: Waste Walk Best Practices

waste walk

Continuing the theme of “waste walks,” there are several fundamental guidelines that should be followed in order to optimize the value and outcomes.

Here are some best practices for implementing Waste Walks (or “going to gemba“) that have proved successful in organizations and that have brought-about break-through results:

  • Communicate before starting. Begin by breaking the ice with the people in the work area so they know what is happening and why; make it clear that this is not a fault-finding mission, that there is amnesty, and that the Waste Walk is an effort to “help, not to shoot the wounded.”
  • Communicate with the gemba team. Establish ground rules, making sure to describe the theme or the forms of waste the team will be targeting, along with any other expectations relative to objectives people issues, desired outcomes, and so on.
  • Describe the start and end points of what you want to observe and study.
  • Conduct the Waste Walk and maintain communication protocols throughout; remind the team that as they interact with and pose questions to those doing the work, they must listen carefully to the answers.
  • Reconvene in a meeting room afterward to record ideas, consider what the team has learned, set priorities, and move into action! Sometimes it gets harder as the team disperses, so be sure to maintain communication and measure progress after-the-fact.
  • Be inquisitive…curious…
  • Make Waste Walks a regular part of people’s work; they should not happen once in a blue moon

Finally, if there is an over-arching theme or mantra associated with an effective waste walk, it is NOT “Don’t just stand there; do something!”

Conversely, the best over-arching mantra is, “Don’t just do something; stand there and learn!”

Learn From the Work

Deming Cycle
The Deming Cycle

In an earlier post we pointed-out that the most important knowledge of all is knowledge of our own work and value stream — we must know it in detail.

Bill Conway often said, “All of the waste comes from the work…what we work on and how we do that work. To improve it, we need to get closer to the work.”

This means we must know how long it takes, where it piles up, and how well it is synchronized with the needs of the customers.

A simple but proven way to learn more about the work is a Waste Walk or by “going to gemba.”

As you may know, “Genba,” which has been popularized as “Gemba,” is a Japanese word meaning “the real place.” The word is widely used in Japan, where detectives frequently refer to a crime scene as genba, and Japanese TV reporters often refer to themselves as reporting from genba/gemba. In the business realm, gemba refers to the place where work is done and value created; in manufacturing the gemba is typically the factory floor, but looking further afield it can be any location — a construction site, administrative office, or sales bullpen — where the actual work is being done.

When it comes to Continuous Improvement (CI), problems are most visible in these areas, and the best improvement ideas will come from going to gemba. There is no substitute for ‘going to the work’ and there are things that can only be learned by going there and watching the work with a purpose. Thus a gemba walk, or Waste Walk, is an activity that takes management and other stakeholders to the front lines to look for waste and opportunities for improvement; to observe the work where the work is being done, and to identify what goes wrong or could go wrong, how often it does or could go wrong, and the associated consequences. It fits nicely into the “Deming Cycle” shown above, as it is a method of “checking” our work.

The Waste Walk is designed to help everyone understand the value stream and its problems; it is not to review results and make superficial comments. Gathering input from the people closest to the work is an important element of making improvements as well. After all, they are the ones that know the most about the work!

Unfortunately, and as noted in the above-referenced past post, in most organizations there is a knowledge barrier that holds the waste in place: the people who know the work best are seldom in a position to know the big picture so when they see waste, they often assume there must be a reason for it. And if they know of better ways of doing something, they often lack the influence to make any significant changes. Including their input in a waste walk can help remedy this problem.

Our next post will focus on best practices for executing an effective waste walk.

Accelerating the Improvement Process Part 4: Work Walk-Through

wastewalk2As Bill Conway often said, “The most important business decision people make every day, is deciding what to work on…”

So, while most organizations have plenty of opportunities for improvement, it is important that people think carefully and choose well what to improve.

This leads us to our fourth installment in a series of posts focusing  on the benefits of “quantifying” the waste and, equally as important, how to go about doing so… because the best way to accelerate our continuous improvement effort is to make sure WE are working on the right things!

The Work Walk-Through Approach
In addition to the goal-driven and brainstorming approaches referenced in our previous two posts, today’s focus is on the “work walk-through approach,” which involves directly observing the work as it is done, and searching for and capturing every bit of waste we can spot.

Shall we staple ourselves to an order? Well, not literally, but one way to identify waste is to get a group of people together to follow the work all the way through the process, watching for all the places that waste occurs.

It is a good idea to make sure our organization has a clear idea about “amnesty” and so that the people hard at work do not feel we are watching for any mistakes they make. As you know, almost all the waste in an organization is due to flaws in the system of work; management has the job of making sure the system is working well so as to minimize wasted time, materials, capital, etc.

When taking this approach, it is usually a good idea to enlist the help of those closest to the work (i.e., the ones doing the work) when trying to  identify which aspects of the system make it harder for them to do the job right with the minimum of time and effort.

 

 

 

 

The Ideal “Waste Walk” Team

gembaContinuing our discussion of “waste walks,” people often ask about how to create the ideal waste walk or “gemba team.”

In principle anyone who’s willing to walk and learn, and who can add valid perspective should be involved in a waste walk at one time or another. More specifically, the ideal internal gemba team may consist of those who do the work as well as the Director of Operations and/or Unit Manager, a Continuous Improvement leader, key operators, and an industrial engineer.

Each team should also appoint a facilitator and a scribe.

Some organizations often include people from other parts of the organization because they have a tendency to look beyond the problems and suggest solutions that those closest to the work might not have considered. Sometimes, it is much easier to think outside of the box when one is from outside of the box!

Including “external” auditors and/or consultants can generate fresh and useful ideas, as these people tend to think differently and raise different types of questions that challenge the status-quo.

Involving customers and suppliers is also a great way to add focus on what is truly value-added.

 

Genba?

gembaAs you may know,  “Genba,” which has been popularized as  “Gemba,” is a Japanese word meaning “the real place.” The word is widely used in Japan, where detectives frequently refer to a crime scene as genba, and Japanese TV reporters often refer to themselves as reporting from genba or gemba.

In the business realm, gemba refers to the place where work is done and value created. For example, in manufacturing the gemba is typically the factory floor; but looking further afield it can be any location where the actual work is being done, such as a construction site, and administrative office or a sales bullpen .

When it comes to Continuous Improvement, problems are most visible in these areas, and the best improvement ideas will come from going to gemba.  There is no substitute for  going to the work and there are things that can only be learned by going there and watching the work with a purpose.

As Bill Conway frequently said, “All of the waste comes from the work,  what we work on, and how we do that work.  To improve it, we need to get closer to the work.”

Thus a gemba walk, or Waste Walk, is an activity that takes management and other stakeholders to the front lines so they can:

  • look for waste and opportunities for improvement
  • observe the work where the work is being done
  • identify what goes wrong or could go wrong
  • identify how often it does or could go wrong
  • determine associated consequences

We will discuss Waste Walks over the next few posts, and look forward to any experiences or feedback you might like to share.

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