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.