Gemba, Lean and Continuous Improvement

Toyota’s Worst Best Kept Secret & The Top Five Reasons For It

Toyota’s secret to the long term success of their Toyota Production System (TPS) is actually pretty simple!  It’s not even a secret.  It’s also really straight forward.  It’s captured in a single word.  Know what it is?

During and since working at Toyota, I’ve been asked many times what the secret sauce is that makes Toyota and TPS such a long term success!  It’s absolutely true that TPS is a comprehensive multi-dimensional system or mechanism about which many books have been written explaining it in great detail.  There is no doubt many powerful principles and tools within it.  It is built on the fundamental principles of respect for people and continuous improvement.  My intention is not to diminish the integration or thoroughness of TPS, but my single word response to the secret sauce question is,

GEMBA

I wholeheartedly believe in respect for people and have a huge passion for continuous improvement, and the best way to create, drive and sustain both is by Gemba!

In addition to providing a means to achieving the principles of respect for people and continuous improvement, the top 5 reasons for conducting gemba are revealed in the spelling of the word itself and are:

 

Go See tLetter Ghe actual condition – in similar fashion as the saying “a picture is worth a thousand words”, seeing is believing!  Gemba allows all participants to see the same thing firsthand.  The good, bad and the ugly!  This is powerful because there is nothing left to someone else’s interpretation and/or communication.  There is no opportunity to hide, exaggerate, or underestimate the conditions or impact through misunderstanding, poor communication, or lack of familiarity of the process.  Gemba also provides alignment of what is happening or not happening.

 

Go and see is so powerful, I once scheduled a meeting with the President of Toyota, on the roof!

Letter EEngagement – Gemba is an incredible way to engage openly between all levels.  Asking questions to understand surfaces issues, barriers, abnormalities, ideas, and potential solutions.  It provides opportunities for operators to voice their opinions and become directly involved in being part of a solution.  Gemba facilitates clarity of leadership direction, and teaching and learning opportunities of all involved.  It is an effective way to follow-up on previous actions and their effectiveness.  Gemba also is a great time for leaders to challenge, encourage, motivate, and of course recognize the efforts and results of their teams.

 

 

Letter MMan, Machine, Material, Method (4Ms) – Gemba allows teams to focus their attention on the 4Ms to identify barriers and wastes impacting the operation or process.  The focus of a Gemba could focus on all the 4Ms, several, or a specific one depending on the desired intent or the situation.   The focus on the 4Ms helps train and develop the team on waste identification and is the engine of continuous improvement.

 

 

Letter BBarriers – Another reason for gemba is to identify barriers either creating a form of waste in the process, or impacting the completion or desired impact of identified actions and solutions.  This is very important in order to first identify necessary actions for improvement, and then when reviewing previous actions to demonstrate support to the team, speed up progress, and keep the team motivated by reducing frustration.

 

 

Letter AAction– Gemba must result in some kind of action.  To me this is not only a must, I believe it is unavoidable.   When everyone sees the same things creating impact, questions are inevitable, followed by the generation of ideas to resolve the issues. This occurs by default.  Prioritization and elimination of the identified actions need to happen next.  Once the immediate actions are determined and agreed upon, ownership and completion dates are imperative.  Timely follow-up of all actions is very important to drive urgency, identify barriers and where help or clarification is needed, and provide additional opportunities for all aspects of engagement.

 

So not only are the reasons for Gemba hidden in plain sight of the letters of the word, the reasons for Gemba also propagate the entire philosophy of continuous improvement by naturally creating a never ending cycle of Gemba.

Are all Gembas the same?  “Follow” my website, to receive the next post, “The Different Types of Gemba”.

Contact me:

You can email me with any questions at glennsommerville@hotmail.com, find me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/glennsommervilleL2R/, or on Twitter at  https://twitter.com/gsommervilleL2R.

If you are enjoying my posts and find the information useful, please “Follow” me by entering your email in the follow box on the right-hand menu of my website www.glennsommerville.com 

 

* Photo by Kristina Flour on Unsplash

 

Gemba, Lean and Continuous Improvement

Gemba by any other name is… go & see! Gemba is NOT just for manufacturing processes!

Many associate gemba as a manufacturing activity, but in reality it is an invaluable tool that any leader can use regardless of the industry, business, process, or function. Gemba means nothing more than going to the workplace to see. The workplace can then include anything where work is performed such as a construction site, ER room, automotive repair garage, control room, accounting office, school room, maintenance job, or food buffet line.

The purpose of gemba is to go and see the process, engage with the employees (team members, operators, associates, cast, staff, techs, etc) that are doing the work. It is to engage with them by showing an interest in what they do, how they do it and to assist them in being successful at it.   Our teams come to work and want to do a good job and it is a leader’s job to help remove the barriers that get in the way of our teams doing the best job they can. Over time, waste and inefficiencies seem to creep in or inadvertently get added that can cause safety, quality, productivity, or cost issues. By going and seeing, a leader is more likely to find these wastes and inefficiencies and can take action to correct them. Point and case; safety, quality, productivity, and cost applies to pretty much any business or process, so why wouldn’t go & see or gemba apply?

The principles are the same when doing a gemba in a non-manufacturing environment as they are in a manufacturing environment. It starts by going to the workplace and engaging with the workers there. Explain to them why you are there, that you are interested in what they do and want to learn about it. Watch what they do and ask questions to understand why they do what they do. Ask them what they think can be done to improve the process. Ask them about things you observe that capture your interest. No doubt, between you, you will identify several things that need to be improved. It is very important in gaining their trust and respect, to then prioritize a manageable amount of items to go after. Discuss these with the employee or team and set a reasonable timeline and approach to taking action.

Most jobs or positions have some level of standardized work or standards to which the process is to be done. This is typically how someone gets trained in the first place. For example, a maintenance technician typically has a detailed preventative maintenance (PM) routine or a standard operating procedure (SOP), while a control room will have defined standards of alarm limits or frequency of checks/recordings that have to be made. Regardless of the job, there will be defined tasks that have to be done, documentation to be followed, training material, or standards to be followed. These are key documents to request, check, and audit how they are being followed. This also leads to key insights as to the cause of safety, quality, productivity, or cost issues if they are not being followed. Even more so if they don’t exist. If they don’t exist, how are people being trained? How do you know it is being done the best way to get the best results?  This then should be your starting point to standardize the task, document it, and get all those doing the function to follow it.  Only then, once it is standardized and everyone is following the standard can you make improvements.

Gemba is an extremely powerful tool in a leader’s toolbox regardless of what you do. Don’t miss out on this just because you think this is a manufacturing tool!

Here’s some other gemba posts you may find of interest:

10 Important Steps of Effective Gemba Walks or “Go See”

Gemba Walks – Tip #1

Gemba Walks – Tip #2

A Leader’s Best Question

3 Steps to Having Time for Gemba

 

Gemba, Leadership, Lean and Continuous Improvement, The Leader

3 Steps to Having Time for Gemba

A very common question I’ve been asked over the years is,

I don’t get out to the floor anymore, what can I do?

Most people understand the importance of gemba and going to the floor to see and understand what is happening.  However, many leaders as they continue to move up the corporate ladder or take on more responsibilities, struggle finding the time to do gemba.  They give priority to everything else and essentially hope they have time to go to the floor.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way.  If left to chance, it won’t happen.

Well, the solution isn’t glamorous or earth shattering at all, but with a little discipline and planning, there is hope.

 

1. Schedule time for gemba.  It starts by literally placing time in your calendar by scheduling an event or meeting weeks in advance.  In fact, make it a never ending recurring meeting.  Schedule them several times a week so that should you have a priority conflict, you still have time in your calendar that week to do gemba.  As an example, if you want to have time for a 1 hour gemba twice a week, I recommend scheduling a 1 hour “Gemba Walk” event three to four times a week for the entire year or longer.  When slotting these Gemba Walks, select times that increase the odds of them actually occurring.  Don’t swim upstream fighting the workplace currents.  In other words, step back and think of your typical week.  There are generally days and times that will be easier to do gemba than others.  Select those time slots and not the days/times when you know there is likely to be a high risk of other conflicts, priorities, or conflicting business conditions.

2. Make gemba part of your weekly personal planning.  As you do your personal planning for the coming week, ensure that you review your calendar paying particular attention as to when you have your gemba’s scheduled.  Check for conflicts and adjust as necessary.  This provides you the opportunity to decline meetings if gemba is a priority over them, or to reschedule your gemba to ensure it happens rather than accepting meetings regardless then wondering why you have no time to do gemba.  If you proactively scheduled more gemba time slots than you need you can make a decision to cancel some or leave them just in case a last minute issue arises during the week.

3. Add “Gemba Walk” to your Leader Standard Work.  Add the number and frequency of Gemba Walks to your Leader Standard Work (LSW) as this can be an added reminder for you to complete it, but more so to provide you with a record of how you are doing.  If you are completing this aspect of your LSW, great no action required.  However, if you look back at your LSW and see that you are frequently missing it, or perhaps always missing it on a specific day/time, then you can think about why and what you need to do differently going forward to increase your ability to attend your gemba.

The above 3 steps have been my approach which has worked well for me.  I find step 3 is important over the longer term because the business and priorities do change over time.  It’s too easy to get caught up in the day to day urgent things that have to get done and before you know it, weeks have gone by and you aren’t getting to the floor as much as you should.  Weekly review of your LSW and looking back over the longer term will highlight to you that you need to take some action to course correct.

If you are already successful at doing regular Gemba, please share your approach in the comments for others to learn from.

 

Gemba, Leadership, Lean and Continuous Improvement, The Leader

Results are in: A Leader’s Best Question

Did you take on the Leadership question challenge last week?

If not, you can find out about it HERE!  It’s not too late to learn about it and try it!

If you did take on the challenge, this is where inter-activeness comes in.  If you found the question useful and/or will add this to your list of leadership questions going forward, click on “Like”.

For those of you that are willing to invest a little more time, leave a comment and let us know how it worked for you or what surprised you the most about it.  Alternatively, what is your favourite Leadership question to ask?  A comment only takes a minute and others will learn from your experience, or if they haven’t tried the question yet, they may give it a try as well!

Although I’ve used this question for a long time, what I enjoyed this week when I took on the challenge, actually was not the response or reaction I got from the people I asked, but rather later on during a gemba when I didn’t ask someone the question, one of the leaders on my team did.  Awesome!  That’s what it’s all about.  Imagine if all our leaders frequently ask this question and then act on the response?

If you like this question, be sure to add it to your Leader Standardized Work, make it a regular question when on a gemba walk, or during your next 1:1.

Gemba, Leadership, Lean and Continuous Improvement, The Leader

A Leader’s Best Question

Try something different this week.  What if we can collectively make a profound difference in our workplaces and teams this week by asking and taking action on what might just be a leader’s best question:

What frustrates you?

I love asking this question.  Well actually, I love the result of asking it.  It is astounding what you will learn from your operators, support teams, or leaders of leaders.  This is not a lean or CI thing, this is a great leadership question for any leader.  Ask it of anyone on your team whether they be hourly or salary,  work on line or in the office.  The response will provide you with some great discussion for sure, and likely actions to help them be a happier and more effective person within your organization.  Who wouldn’t want that?

Here’s the deal.  If you are willing to give it a try this week click on “Like” so we will have an idea of the impact we’ll have across many companies and industries.  Ask at least 3 different people on your teams.  Leave a comment on the post after you have asked a few people “What frustrates you?” and let us know your thoughts on the value of asking this question.

If you want to challenge others to do the same, please share this post.

Let’s do this!