The place where things happen.
At least, this is a short and fair definition.
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)!
- 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.
Meet the people at the Gemba i.e. do an "on-site" visit.
- 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...?
- Take immediate action:
Don't wait too long to relieve pains: (provisionaly) mitigate asap!
- 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.
Adapt the project (change the environment, conditions etc.) and report the change to ALL Gemba.
avoid future issues and impediments, reduce risks, increase chances of better-than-expected results
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...
- 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.
- 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.