Gemba: Go see, ask why, show respect

in Delivery, Leadership

Since beginning the new chapter of Code’s journey, we've been looking at how we can make our business routines and measurement more in line with our business vision to become a Lean Studio. This has meant evaluating routines and reporting and reducing admin where possible. We still have a way to go but we are making continual, incremental changes that hopefully make day to day life for our teams more productive. In turn, it means we get updates around issues, risks and improvements focus quicker, and in a much more meaningful way.

For us at Code, a start towards that was the introduction of the Gemba Walk routine.

Gemba is short for 'Gembutsu', a Japanese word meaning ‘the real place’.

The Gemba Walk is derived from Lean principals, with the focus being on team improvements. The routine is where the management/business come to see work in progress by meeting teams in the real place, their area, their problems, their wins. In The words of Toyota Chairman Fujio Cho, Gemba simply means: "Go see, ask why, show respect" This way you can have face to face conversations about ongoing improvements and offer support and coaching directly. It also means updates are given in real time, rather than through reporting which by the time you’ve received them, read them and analysed what you need to follow up on, could well be out of date.

When we first introduced the Gemba Walk we were in the early stages of our journey towards our Lean Studio vision. We had a really good foundation but teams were at differing levels and so we needed to coach and empower our teams to be experimenting with ways to improve and work better towards company, client and commercial goals.

As Gemba was such a new concept, we created a ‘scorecard’ to work alongside the Gemba Walk which helped guide the teams to what we were expecting. The scorecard was initially quite top level, covering topics such as kaizen mind-set, planning, flow, Value/Waste and commercials. We’ve actually recently evolved the scorecard as we felt there was too much room for subjectivity and feedback suggested we needed to be clearer on the specifics we were expecting to see. Our teams are constantly improving, so we need to make sure we're challenging them so that the routine remains useful for both us and them. It's also important to highlight that whilst we implied expected behaviours of the team, the Gemba Walk is not a place to critise or judge. It is a place to simply try and make things better.

Gemba has been invaluable to us as an Operations team to be able to meet the teams where they’re at and get a view of the work they are putting in.

Sometimes when you sit on the ‘business’ side, it’s easy to look at the metrics and judge what they’re doing if the picture doesn’t look as good as it should. By directly speaking to the teams you get a feel for the efforts that are going towards improving. I have a much better understanding of the challenges and nuances each team face, which in turn means I have more patience, empathy and appreciation for them.

Go see, ask why, show respect

Amy Murray's Picture

Amy Murray

Operations Manager. Little and blonde, with an obsession for cats, snow and the mountains.
@amyruthm