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Six Sigma Tools: Gemba Walk

published on May 14, 2012

In any lean project there are a ton of buzzwords, but the one thing that is a universal truth in all lean initiative is that for any tool used to be successful it must be understood. In today’s blog we are going to talk about a Gemba walk and why it works.

What is it?

A Gemba walk is literally seeing where the work happens and the value of work. The reason for the walk can be varied but its importance is to illustrate the process to the people who will be responsible for improving it. I like Gemba because it takes 6Sigma out of theory and metrics and illustrates it in a tangible way that makes sense to the people using it.

What do I do?

This is by no means a comprehensive checklist, but it is a place to start when you are planning your Gemba walk. I provided a simple but comprehensive checklist to create your Gemba walk below.


  1. Identify the processes (internal/external) that the customer pays for and has an expected output.
  2. Identify who understands the process- What you are looking for here is not the person/division/team responsible for the process, but the person who designed the process and understands why it operates the way it does. This person should understand the performance gap analysis and have a plan to correct the gap (or at least the beginning of an idea).This step is hard for a lot of people because the knowledge master generally isn’t the person with the official responsibility, but it is critical that you get this step right.
  3. Focus on the steps of the process that add value, show standardization or show how the work is distributed.
  4. Know the expected outputs-Are they gaps? Are you asking why? Are you assigning blame? (If are, you shouldn’t be.)
  5. Identify the areas of the process that are going well, what is making that success happen?
  6. Now that you know what is working and what is not, create your checklist based on this information.
  7. Remember to steer clear of the 3M’s and educated your process leaders on them. Muda-Waste, Mura-process variation not caused by the customer, and Muri-overburden on facility, people and equipment caused by Mura and Muda.

This is pretty comprehensive checklist, but as with all my posts this is just to introduce you to the Gemba Walk tool.  Consulting with your belt will give you the most useful questions and sources of information in your walk. Done correctly a Gemba walk jumpstart rapid improvement events, done incorrectly they can derail an entire initiative. What will you value today?

published on May 14, 2012


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