Are you a discoverer, an investigator? Hopefully, the scheduled gemba walk is not the only time you visit the workplace. Another time is when something happens, and people escalate the situation to you. To be able to help, you need to understand what happens, and for that, nothing is better than go and see what is going on. But those times, you visit gemba with one objective in mind, looking at a previously defined situation.
Every opportunity you have to walk around the workplace is a chance to learn. While I worked in manufacturing, I used to take every available opportunity to go and see to learn something. You need to develop a new skill, being a discoverer.
How do you become a discoverer?
How do you start uncovering potential problems or finding things to improve? You need to develop discoverer’s eyes or become good in what I used to call, look for trouble.
When you visit or walk through an area, not just walk, see, and understand the process. Look at the three real things of the work area, the workplace, the facts, and the work in process. Unleash your curiosity, observe the environment, how things flow, how people communicate. Try to understand why things happen and how things work. Take attention to detail of the steps sequence, best practices, and potential opportunities. Learn about the metrics to measure the process’s success and if there is a way to highlight abnormal situations. Is there any work in process? Why it exists? Does the flow stop? Do you see waste? Can you see any risks or safety hazards? Talk with the people in the area and ask questions to understand the situation, never to judge.
Developing your skills
All that looks like a lot but, as you get used to it, you will do it quite fast. The more you walk to see and understand, the better discoverer of opportunities you become. There are a couple of things that you can do to develop that skill, for example, the following.
- Visit an area that you are not familiar with, like a different process or department.
- Volunteer to participate in continuous improvement events out of your work area
- Grab the standard work document of one of your department processes and audit it
- Learn a new job, shadow someone from your team.
Take every opportunity you have to explore a process, learn about it, and discover how to improve it. When you visit take close attention to the workplace, the facts, and the work in process. Walk the process, observe, ask with respect, learn what happens and why, and finally discover how to improve it. Being a good discoverer or investigator is an art. The art of finding trouble or improvement opportunities. Three characteristics of good discoverers are curiosity, detail-oriented, and communicative. Let’s be good discoverers, like cats, and find all the hidden gems in our processes.