In Lean manufacturing the Gemba is the most important location for any team; it’s a place where time, productivity and space are crucial and not to be wasted. For manufacturers it’s the factory floor. For you, this could be a sales floor, research lab, shipping dock, control room and even your website.
Whatever your business, find where the action is happening and that’s your Gemba.
In Lean manufacturing a Gemba walk is a practice where the bosses visit the place where products are built and services are delivered to get a first-hand and unmediated understanding of the real problems that front-line employees face. The objective is to understand their challenges and gather the information needed to solve problems and make the best possible decisions.
As Toyota leader and pioneer of the Gemba walk Taiichi Ohno said
Gemba walks are common place and very powerful for Lean Leaders in the manufacturing industries, but can they be as beneficial for Innovation Leaders?
The simple answer is yes. Here are 3 reasons why a regular Gemba walk will benefit any innovation leader from any industry.
1. First-hand knowledge is the highest form of information
Data gives us powerful information, but making conclusions based on data alone can and often will lead to flawed decisions.
A regular Gemba walk will give Innovation Leaders transparent and unmediated knowledge that is needed to challenge and validate assumptions made by data.
2. Perspective is gained through experience
As President Eisenhower said ‘Farming looks mighty easy when your plow is a pencil and you’re 1000 miles away from a cornfield’.
A regular Gemba walk allows Innovation Leaders to understand the challenges employees need to overcome on a daily basis to deliver the results that are being promised in the boardroom.
3. Both people and process matter equally
People are the most important assets for every business. But talented people will be held back by poor processes and average performers can be elevated by smart processes.
Whether you see innovation as a production like process or creative process to generate ideas, a regular Gemba walk will help you develop a culture that fixes the problems in a process and not one that blames the people performing the process.
If you think that you are too busy to practice a Gemba walk, spare a thought for the ultimate Lean Leader Carlos Ghosn. The current CEO of both Nissan and Renault, reportedly spends 48 hours a month in the air, flying over 150,000 miles a year in perhaps the most effective example of commitment to the Lean Leadership in global business today.
So, to every leader who spends too much time innovating in the boardroom, how could a weekly Gemba walk impact your innovation efforts?
A great way to find out and learn from some of the world’s greatest innovation thought leaders at the same time is to participate in one of The Leadership Network’s 3 day Lean Manufacturing and Innovation Excellence MasterClasses with Gemba walks at leading innovators Lego, Toyota, Tesla, Zara, and General Electric.