The word ‘Gemba’ is being increasingly heard across corporate board room meetings these days. With companies around the world trying to bring down production costs, it is not surprising that they are looking at systems and procedures that would enable them to do the same. Gemba Walks, which were once popular only in Japan, from where the concept originated, have now been adopted globally.
There are several ways in which Gemba Walks benefit an organization. For one, it allows the managers to quickly identify problems on the shop floors. What this means is that all those small problems that could have proven detrimental to the production process can be plagued. In a way the process also helps in fostering team bonding among the various associates. Not only do they get to communicate on a regular basis with their senior officials but also get to share their point of view. Such brain-storming usually leads to proliferation of innovative ideas which could further help in boosting productivity.
The Gemba Walk also forces managers out of their cabins and out into the shop floor. A lot of times managers are not aware of the practical difficulties being faced by associates on the shop floor. This in turn could lead to communication gaps. However, if the manager were to visit the shop floor on a regular basis, they would get first hand information on the problems.
Another key, but often not mentioned benefit of Gemba Walk is the way in which it leads to psychological benefits. It shows to the associates that the manager who is talking the walk goes through the reviews on the ‘Visual Metric’ boards. By demonstrating his or her interest on the figures that are present on the board, the manager is in a way telling the associates that they are important for the progress of the organization and are playing a key role in the process.
What this in turn does is to increase the focus of the associates. In several companies it is struggle to keep the productivity levels of associates’ high day in and day out. However, by encouraging them to come out with their suggestions and by making them feel important, a level of motivation is achieved which in turn helps in keeping them focused on their jobs.
However, managements of organizations need to remember that only the Gemba Walks are not enough to improve productivity. They are in no way a replacement to the regular production meetings. They are only complimentary to such meetings. A production meeting is the place where more serious issues can be taken up for discussion and results arrived at for the betterment of the organization.
Moreover, managers who are undertaking the Gemba Walks need to remember that it is always better to criticize an individual in private rather than in public. While constructive criticism can be given, it is preferable that it is given in private rather than in full public glare. Managers could however praise their associates in public as it would only further motivate the individual to perform better.