Gemba what?

Gemba what?
The place where things happen.

That's Gemba!
At least, this is a short and fair definition.

Objective

Understand the importance of Gemba and why a project manager should "walk the Gembas" to (proactively) safeguard the project outcomes.

The "big 4" Gemba

A project manager should be aware of the Gemba related to his/her mission. Foremost:

  • Operations Gemba: the customer i.e. the client/user of the project outcome,  often in charge of defining the requirements.
  • Business Gemba: the sponsor i.e the project principal, who ordered/contracted the project realisation.
  • Implementation Gemba: the "project team" in charge of producing the expected outcome according to the requirements.
  • Office Gemba: the organizational units in charge of regulating and controlling the management of projects and their outcome.

Gemba by Example

These are a few of simplified Gemba examples in different project contexts.

Context: House construction

  • Operations: the future residents (borrower)
  • Business: the bank (lender), the building promoter
  • Implementation: the architect and the building workers
  • Office: the building authorities, the notary

Context: LIMS software implementation

  • Operations: the labor manager and labor workers
  • Business: the executive board, the clients of the labor
  • Implementation: the software development and the labor process manager
  • Office: the regulatory administration, the certification authorities

Context: Machine tool manufacturing

  • Operations: the production unit using the tool
  • Business: the product manager and the tool builder
  • Implementation: engineers in charge of tool building and tool integration
  • Office: production process and product quality managers

Walk the Gemba

A central task for the project manager (PM) consists in "walking the Gemba", either to respond to a project issue/impediment endangering the outcome or to proactively check and improve the ongoing project realization. In all case, a PM will have to meet people at their respective Gemba. IRL (in-real-life)!

Step-by-step

  1. Prepare the walk:
    The PM should embrance the point-of-vue and evaluate the situation of each Gemba to better understand them, prior his visit.
  2. Walk-in:
    Meet the people at the Gemba i.e. do an "on-site" visit.
  3. Observe and ask questions:
    Ask yourself as well as the persons living in the Gemba: What is going on? How's the people situation? What is broken and why? Is there something that should be improved...?
  4. Take immediate action:
    Don't wait too long to relieve pains: (provisionaly) mitigate asap!
  5. Discuss and draft future actions:
    Consider alternatives, discuss suggestions. Then decide and plan the adequate therapy i.e. the improvements and changes required for a total remission/recovery together with the involved Gemba people.
  6. Walk-back:
    Adapt the project (change the environment, conditions etc.) and report the change to ALL Gemba.

Proactive Walk

avoid future issues and impediments, reduce risks, increase chances of better-than-expected results

Controll Walk

respond to risk ... react to impediments... comply with governance etc.

What the walk should not be

The walk is not a "PM show". It's the show of the Gemba people: the PM role is to help and support those people to do their work as good as possible. If so, the PM will be at his best.

A toolkit for Gemba walkers

As a project manager, it is recommanded to choose the appropriate Gemba Walk equipment and to train the walk...

Walking toolkit

  • good shoes, good eyes and ears, curiosity
  • good communication and soft skills
  • courage and tenacity

Between the walks tooling

"Suggestions boards" on the Gemba walls, "discovery" meetings, design thinking...
↣ excite the brain of the Gemba.

"Self-organization" and self-initiated CIP at the Gemba:
↣ bless the soul of the Gemba.

"Project vision" communicated to and success (or pain) shared with the Gemba:
↣ feed the hearth of the Gemba.

"Checklists", "Measurements", Daily's...
↣ open the eyes of the Gemba.

Conclusion

  • The Gemba and Gemba Walk have been explained.
  • The steps of the Gemba walk have been described.
  • Tools for the project manager walking the Gemba have been listed.
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