Debunking Myths Of Gemba

I have heard resistance for going to Gemba and I want to address any myths and misunderstandings.

  1. You only need to go to Gemba once: If you have multiple operators and/or lack of standard work, going once will not show the variation that exists.  Gaining a deep understanding of the problem and root cause might require seeing it more then once.  This happened to me a few months ago when I saw the process on an off day and thought the root cause was something else entirely than what it truly was.  Going once leads to poor assumptions which can be costly if you assign resources to improve based off of limited understanding.
  2. It is not worth a person’s time because their services are needed by the customer: The people who are critical to your customers are the ones who will gain the most by going to Gemba.  Since they provide the service, seeing the process will help them improve what they do every day.  They are your key stakeholders for any change and their Gemba experience will make your case for improvement more than any meeting or PowerPoint slide.
  3. A report will tell me all the information I need about the problem: Reports may show waste of waiting but not what is causing the delay.  Data can tell you that you have over-processing waste through excessive approvals but does not demonstrate what is driving need for the inspection steps.  A chart may explain unnecessary transportation but the space will provide insight on how to reduce movement.  A report that is read in a conference room is out-of-touch from the people doing the work and causes the waste of poor utilization of people’s skills.
  4. I do the work every day so there is no need to watch it: There is always value from stepping back and watching the work being done.  Our “waste goggles” are not finely tuned when we are focusing on customers or other processing.  We also see ourselves doing the work as it “should be” other than how it actually is.  I have read about hospital hand-washing studies where doctors say they always scrub their hands but observers saw they didn’t.  There is an even worse assumption related to this: “I used to do the work so I already know it”. 

What other excuses are stopping you from going to Gemba?

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Filed under Gemba, Improve With Lean

5 responses to “Debunking Myths Of Gemba

  1. Maybe I was weird for feeling this way, but when I first managed a final assembly area I was intimidated by the shop floor workforce. I felt like I needed to know something about the subject (manufacturing processes) and I knew very little. I felt like they were all the experts and I couldn’t add any value by being on the floor. I was fairly young relative to the workforce…I was probably 26 and the average age of the employees was much higher. However, it didn’t take long for me to get over that, because my job pretty much required that I be out on the floor about 75% of the time.

  2. Great post! I completely agree with you and had similar discussions with people who either don’t feel the need to go to Gemba at all or believe the only correct answer is to go to Gemba daily.

    From my perspective, the frequency of the trips to Gemba is situational but the requirement is that you go as often as is necessary to always understand the current state of the business.

    Another favorite complaint of managers not truly embracing the concept is that they don’t want to be tied down to a set schedule or route. The purpose of the set route is to ensure that the manager visits all areas. My experience has been that if managers don’t document their route and what they are looking for, soon the practice falls by the wayside and they stop visiting all areas.

    Very, good post!

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