Gemba (現場) is a Japanese word that roughly translates to "the actual place". Fun fact: Gemba can also be used by detectives to refer to a crime scene or by journalists when they are reporting.
In business, the meaning of this word is a bit different. The main idea is that problems are visible in the workplace and the only way to improve the situation is by actually going there to assess the situation. In fact, there is even the so called "Gemba walk", which denotes the process of going to the workplace, asking questions and learning from that experience. It's considered one of the main aspects of Lean management philosophy ( this philosophy aims to reduce the time of production and the time of communication between customers and manufacturers).
Gemba is currently used by many companies to improve their production system. Taiichi Ohno, an executive in Toyota, encouraged the employees to walk around the floor, effectively introducing the concept of Gemba to the company.
Here are some very useful tips to have a successful Gemba walk:
Prepare a list of questions beforehand to ask to the people working.
Share your experience and feedback with your coworkers in order to brainstorm a solution to the problems encountered.
Create a fixed program detailing the frequency and the duration of your Gemba walk.
Last but not least: remember that Gemba is not about making superfluous comments or bossing people around. Its purpose is to identify the root of the problems and nip it in the bud. Therefor, Gemba can contibute greatly to problem solving and bonding as a team, while simultaneously improving the production line and customer satisfaction.
By Maria Zoi Michailidou - Corporate Culture Correspondent at YNBC