Gemba Walking

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Gemba is a Japanese term meaning "the real place". It’s the place where the work takes place or where the value is created.

Gemba Walk


A Gemba walk is a physical observation of the process. The purpose of the walk is simply to watch the process.

We want to use a Gemba walk for two purposes:

  • As a project leader and project team to validate a process we're working to improve
  • As a supervisor to eliminate roadblocks for employees and find opportunities for improvement

When you are improving a process, always "walk" or observe the process. Take a paper copy of your process map with you and document variations. Often when we're mapping out a process in a conference or meeting room, we miss critical details or we may not map out re-work loops. We tend to map out the best case scenario without showing the true picture of how a process is performing.

Performing a Gemba walk will help you see opportunities to make the process better.

After your Gemba walk, meet back with your project team to review your observations. You may have uncovered new problems or found hidden factories that had not been documented. Update your process map to reflect the actual state of the process.

If the process is performed within a software system or using electronic tools, simply shadow someone performing the process. Pull up a chair at their desk and watch as they navigate through the steps. You'll get a first-hand view if they experience problems or if they have to stop and get help.

After the walk, go back and update your process map. Then meet with your team to share observations and address any pain points.

Action Items for This Course


  • Utilize the 5 Whys to dig to the root cause of the problem
  • Conduct data analysis to understand drivers of the problem
  • Utilize a SIPOC to focus on the inputs and outputs of a process
  • Create an "as is" and "future state" process map
  • Gemba walk your process to validate your assumptions and the process
  • Remember - CI is an art based on science. Commit to trying different tools and approaches!

Lessons in this Course:

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