Are there different types of Gemba? Yes! The fundamental reasons of Gemba remain the same, but there are at least 5 different types of Gembas each serving a different purpose. Do you know what they are?
A leader needs to stay connected and engaged with what is going on, or not, as the case maybe, in their areas of responsibility. In a previous post Toyota’s Worst Best Kept Secret & The Top Five Reasons For It, the top 5 reasons for Gemba were discussed, and even though these reasons more or less stay the same there are at least 5 different types of Gembas. Gemba is NOT just for manufacturing processes! Gemba is also a very powerful leadership tool regardless of the type of work, industry, or level of leadership you are in. Office, logistics, laboratory, health care, customer service, construction, etc, gemba works the same and is just as beneficial as in a manufacturing or factory environment.
Gemba or “Go & See”
Personal Gemba – A personal gemba is where the leader goes to one or more of their areas of responsibility by themselves. They may go with a specific topic, concern, waste stream, check, audit, confirmation in mind, or just go and see. Of course they should engage with their team along the way, but the point is these are unplanned and impromptu conversations and engagements with them. These gembas are a great way for a leader to observe things without preparations by the team and in areas they otherwise may not be taken. When visiting a building, I typically conduct a personal gemba first thing by walking the parking lots, lunch rooms, rest rooms, and other nooks and crannies before reviewing the main operations as it gives a leader an overview state of the business, how things are being managed, and the culture within the facility. Another purpose of a personal gemba is to go and see by yourself before setting a new target or challenge to your team. By observing for yourself, you will be better able to determine where the team needs to focus, what are challenging but achievable targets, observe abnormalities, or periodic work, or to confirm for yourself, without bias, what the current condition really is.
Leadership Gemba – A leadership gemba is when several members of a senior leadership team conduct a go & see together. This is powerful because they observe together seeing and hearing the same things. This is an opportunity for senior leaders to engage with operators through to middle management to provide coaching, mentoring, redirection, provide resources and assistance, and to recognize the teams. A leadership gemba can be a confirmation walk of the actual conditions, observe problematic processes, see the results of a recent kaizen or continuous improvement project, provide recognition, or to engage with the teams on a specific topic. Leadership gembas are usually scheduled and the general agenda agreed upon by the levels of leadership.
Daily Gemba – A leader’s core responsibility is to remove barriers and help our teams achieve the organizational goals. The best way to do that is to demonstrate our actions being louder than words and daily gemba is an excellent tool for this purpose. Daily gemba is done at the same time each day with all department leaders following a predetermined standard path. The path may very day by day, but the point is to visit the key areas on a regular frequency. During the gemba, the teams would provide an update on key metrics and performance from the previous day, recent trends, and identify any current challenges, concern, or barriers which is impeding their performance or attainment of a target. The leaders can then assist with removing these barriers. Daily gemba also ensures that everyone knows, understands, and is aligned to the top priorities for that day. Daily gemba should be short and very focused, targeting 30 minutes and no more than 45. The challenge is usually to avoid problem solving during gemba. Daily gemba should also be a key part of Leader Standardized Work.
Impromptu Gemba – An impromptu gemba is used when discussing a specific situation or topic in an area physically removed from the point of discussion, and a spontaneous decision is made to go and see at the actual location or process under discussion. This is done to assist in and align understanding, to problem solve and determine root cause, discuss counter measures, ask questions of the operators or those involved, or discuss next steps. Often in meetings it takes a great deal of time for everyone to understand an issue and even after explaining, some may not actually get it. They think they do, but they really don’t. By going and seeing, problems can more rapidly be understood, necessary resources and actions agreed upon, and the issue resolved.
Scheduled Gemba -Some disagree with this type of gemba, but I do believe it serves a couple of important purposes. This type of gemba, is simply scheduled in a calendar like any other meeting. It can be a reoccurring scheduled event, or a one time occurrence on specific topic scheduled gemba. In some environments or with some leaders, going and seeing seems to becomes the lowest priority and as a result, doesn’t happen. Unless that is, they schedule it like any other meeting. This reduces the likelihood that other meetings will be scheduled over top, or getting caught up in other things and not making it out to gemba. The one time occurrence gemba is used when there is a need to have several leaders attend. In these situations, it is important that everyone sees and hears the same thing so scheduling the gemba is usually necessary in most environments to ensure attendance.
If a picture is worth a thousand words, Gemba must be priceless!
There are several types or slightly different gembas, beyond the above, but the most essential point is that leaders need to invest quality time at the gemba, or going and seeing. If a picture is worth a thousands words, Gemba must be priceless, because it allows everyone to see the same thing first hand; the good, the bad, and the ugly!
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