Going to Gemba

Go to the Gemba!

Gemba has been widely used, for some time now, by Continuous Improvement (CI) practitioners around the globe. But what does it mean and how important is this concept in our continued journey towards operational excellence?

The word Gemba means “real place” in Japanese. In fact, the Japanese use the word Gemba in their daily speech (Imai, 2012). For example, whenever a reporter is covering a story in the field, they refer to themselves as “reporting from the Gemba”; i.e., from where the event is. In short, Gemba is where things happen.

Using Gemba in Three Different Organizational Settings

1. Manufacturing: Going to the Gemba means actually observing the operations and processes related to the issue(s) being investigated. It also means speaking with the people who actually do the work in those processes. The idea here of going to the “real place” is that the improvement team sees, smells, touches, listens to, and is present where things are happening. The improvement team members use their senses and investigative tools rather than their guesses and assumptions made from say, an office desk.

2. Hospitality/Service: A “Gemba walk” example in the hospitality sector might be a manager who is engaging with guests at the reception desk, perhaps listening to a certain complaint about the pool water quality. This manager would then visit the pool area to inspect the issue in its “real place”. Another example would be a Nursing Manager shadowing the triage process in a hospital, looking for opportunities to reduce the overall intake time.

3. Transactional: Gemba in a transactional setting, such as a mortgage firm for example, can be done via the monitoring or silent-listening of a phone call conversation between a mortgage specialist and a prospect borrower. Or via the shadowing of a college admissions team that has been working on reviewing applications online.

This simple concept is even applicable to everyday life events (what the Japanese do). Going to the Gemba is just that: to go see in the real place what’s really happening! And make sure that you do it with quality time and that the people involved in the process are heard.

How Adonis Can Help

Gemba is a component of a real continuous improvement mindset. Here at Adonis, we provide training and ongoing support that will help your organization change its culture towards an approach that is always Gemba-driven.

Reference: Imai, M. (2012). Gemba Kaizen: A Commonsense Approach to a Continuous Improvement Strategy (2nd Ed.). McGraw-Hill.