Discuss and define clear expectations of your business, department, team or project. Understand the output and be sure all stakeholders have consensus. Whether your output is product, process, data or consulting, the management process is very much the same when working in a team. Once consensus on an output is gained, benchmark how world-class organizations perform the “Go-See” walk, otherwise known as Gemba in the Toyota Production System. The Go-See walk allows you to observe processes in real time, current state environments.
Picture yourself in the dining room of an open-kitchen designed restaurant. You see patrons arrive, wait, be greeted, seated, served, order, the server walk from station to table to kitchen and back, the bartender, cook and runner do the same. The cook moves plates through the line and notifies the server. If you’ve ever watched this, you’ve performed a Gemba Walk. The action of observing what actually happens has a lot of value; have you left a restaurant with several ways that you could have been served faster or better due to inefficiencies? Imagine your customer sitting in your lab or office watching your team’s movements and activity—take their place and see what they would see. Of course, it’s essential to know the expectation as noted earlier.
As managers and leaders, we often tend to believe everything works out, process is followed and there are no issues unless someone brings them up. The real issue, however, is that processes don’t usually accommodate change or disruption to supply chain, absence of a role/person in the workflow, or accommodate special requests. The Gemba Walk can aid in identifying these potential pitfalls and error proofing your process.
During your Gemba Walk, be sure to note physical motion, placement of equipment, documents, supplies and stations. Make clear to everyone why you are observing and not talking. Make clear that nobody is in trouble! Seeing a process “as-is” or current-state will lead to refinement, efficiencies and opportunity to error-proof process. Challenge teams to make it difficult for the next step in process to make an error or waste time.