Most of the gemba walks are done with a large spectrum search for improvement, usually focusing on the 7 wastes known as “muda”. Some practitioners will look for variability (“mura”) and unreasonableness (“muri”) as well.
Yet as improvement opportunities are always infinite and resources are not, this broad approach may divert precious resources on secondary or even irrelevant objectives relatively to the organization’s Goal.
Just as commanders in military operations, managers should focus on main objective(s) in order to leverage action instead of risking to deplete their resources and fall short to achieve their objectives.
Therefore managers and executives should Goal-focus their gemba walks, which means look for deviations that hinders the organization to achieve its Goal or improvements that truly contribute to achieve the organization’s Goal. And this is significantly different from picking up any improvement opportunity.
There are two high-level roadmaps that can be combined* to help: the Goal Tree and Hoshin Kanri. Both describe the cascade of intermediate objectives that are necessary to achieve in order to achieve the top-most objectives, hence the Goal.
*read the article “How Goal Tree can help Hoshin Kanri ”
My preference goes to Goal Tree. A full Goal Tree is a collection of benchmarks and an assessment tool altogether.
>Learn more about it
With the Goal Tree and all the Necessary Conditions not yet fulfilled in mind, the gemba walker has a checklist of items to look for.
On the gemba, the basic question is then: “is this process/activity/task a Necessary Condition?
- if no, the next question is: “why does it exist? / can it be suppressed?” If it can’t be suppressed it must be adjusted to consume the very minimum resources
- if it is a Necessary Condition, the next question is: “is this process/activity/task contributing to achieve the Critical Success Factors and the Goal?”
- if yes, it means the status is green*, then improvement is probably needed somewhere else,
- if no, if status is amber* or red*, the process/activity/task is a good candidate for improvement.
*read the article “Goal Tree: how to assess Necessary Conditions status?”
Only with the Goal in mind and knowing the cascade of necessary conditions, a gemba walk will truly focus on meaningful improvement opportunities. Otherwise it is easy to start cleaning up the whole mountain when getting the rocks out of the path would be enough.
About Gemba walks pitfall, you may like Go for the why, not for the who (don’t look for someone to blame)