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?