Gemba walk: go for the why, not the who (don’t look for someone to blame)

Chris HOHMANN

Chris HOHMANN – Author

Gemba walks got increasingly popular over time but so went the misunderstanding of its purpose.

One of the worst misuse of the Gemba walk is going to spot deviations and wastes, and then instead of trying to understand the causes which led to those deviations or wastes (the why), managers go for someone to blame (the who).

Looking for the seven, eight or more types of waste is looking for symptoms, which is relatively easy. The more difficult part is to find the root cause(s) and eradicate them in order to improve significantly and hopefully, permanently.

Gemba walkers should remember that mistakes or deviations happen because the system or process is tolerant to them.

The second thing they should remember is that most systems and processes are broken and require extraordinary people to run them.

Alas, as extraordinary people are few, the organization has to do with ordinary people.

As it is easier to improve broken processes than to turn ordinary people into superheroes, Gemba walker should go for the why, not the who.

They’ve done well if after Gemba walk and improvement, the processes can be run with ordinary people and fewer opportunities to do wrong or generate waste.

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