Going to the gemba is one of the essential activities of Lean and Six Sigma that we all must do. Every project requires it, every issue needs it and every person should do it. Toyota Chairman Fujio Cho once said "go see, ask why, show respect." A perfect summary of going to the gemba, but what are some of the basic items a lean practitioner can take with them for their trip to "go and see?"
Amongst the various reasons we "go and see” are the objectives to understand or observe what is going on at the gemba. It won't always be a problem and you may not always find an opportunity, but if we take the time to go, then we should take the time to try and remember the gemba too.
Pencil and Paper
One of the most basic tools you can take to the gemba is a sheet of paper and a pencil. Although there will be times when you need more, you don't need to resize PowerPoint slides, copy and paste excel sheets or shove a laptop in your pocket every single time you get marching orders to go to the gemba, just grab a simple sheet of paper and write a few notes. One thing to be aware of is that the notes you take do not get prioritized over the people you engage with. Keeping things organized is important, but you don't always have to draw a Picasso portrait while you are at the gemba. A simple list of the steps you walk will get you very far when you return from the gemba.
Depending on your objective a phone can be either good or bad. If you are going to "ask why" it's probably safe to say your phone should stay in your pocket. One of the purposes we ask "why” is to develop and stretch others capability to problem solve for themselves. This would not be a time to break your phone out. A few times when your phone would come in very handy are:
1. Gathering data - Most phones are equipped with stopwatches that you can use to gather data such as cycle times while you are at the gemba.
2. Photo/Video - Sometimes while you are at the gemba you will see something that you will need to remember or would like to watch again (slower/faster, closer/further) later on, the phones of today's day and age are a perfect tool for this.
Probably the most important item you can take with you to the gemba is a positive attitude. Greet everyone with a warm welcoming spirit and be ready to listen to anything that people have to say. Additionally, having a positive attitude in all situations will help show others that you are welcome to challenges and opportunities in both good and bad situations.
There are many other items, attitudes and tools we can take to the gemba. Templates can be very helpful in standardizing activities and formats but should be easily accessible and quick to grab. Check out our upcoming course called the ©WASTES methodology for waste walking.
Discussion Opportunities (leave in the comments below):
1. What items do you take with you when you go to the gemba?
2. What are some best practices you have used when going to the gemba?
3. What struggles have you experienced associated with going to the gemba?
One of My Favorite quotes from a great Manufacturing legend says "If you always do what you've always done, you will always get what you have always got." This saying rings true today years after Mr. Henry Ford has passed away. Why is that? That saying doesn't note that what you've always got is bad nor does it say that what you've always done is not the right way either, but it does give heed that if we try something new we will get something different. This can be a troubling thought for some. Maybe what you will get, is not quite as good as what you've always got. Maybe you just don't know any different way to do what you've always done. So how do we make sure that what we are about to do yields results that are better than what we have always done?
1. First Define where it is you want to be
This is actually not quite as hard as it sounds. We often times think of defining where we want to be at a strategic level, you know visions and alignment and much larger scaled initiatives. But this concept is applicable to just about anything that we do in life. " I am here, but I would like to be there." Maybe it is as simple as my profit has always been this much but I would like to increase it to this much. Wherever you want to be just make sure that your "Vision" or your "Target" is at a level that is appropriate and accomplishable. Some ways that you can define where you want to be are; Setting visions, defining charters, strategic planning or outcome statements. Whatever the method you use, just be sure to define where you are headed.
2. Where am I at?
Now that we know where you want to be, it's time to figure out where you are at? A variety of lean tools can assist at this point in the Journey, but one of the most useful tools you can use is the value stream map. Understanding where it is we want to be and clarifying the gap between where we are and where we would like to be, is often a variety of issues. Mapping the current state, will help you grasp the entire situation and plan the best route to get where you want to be. Some other tools you can use to clearly reveal the current state are: Process charts, SIPOC maps, organizational value streams, implementation plans or just your memory and the Gemba. Just make sure you are honest and open with where you currently are.
3. How do we get there?
Now we have defined where we want to be and what it is we are currently doing. The next step is to figure out how do we do it? How do we reach our goal? Whatever method you used for the "current state" you should have revealed multiple issues that are impairing you from getting where you want to be. Now it is time to map out your future state (immediately after the current State). You now know where you want to be and where you currently are so you can properly plan how you are going to get where you want to go. Keep in mind as you document your future state map, you will need to create counter measures that remove all the "issues" you found in the current state. This will ensure that the future state map is an improved version of the current state practices and in many cases might yield a complete and total transformation.
4. Help your Team Get the Wins
Of Course with any transformation of what is normal there is always the risk that people will go back to “the way things are always done.” This is where tools such as standard operating procedures, updated policies and company training come into play. We want to make sure that people know what changes will occur and set them up to enjoy the journey in getting there. A few ideas that may help manage the change as you go from where you are to where you want to be are:
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