What is a gemba walk? What are the benefits of doing a gemba walk?

A gemba walk is defined as the act of going to see gemba, the place where the process happens, and value is created.   During the walk, you will do the following.

Go See

The purpose of the walk is to understand the work and grasp the entire situation.  The associates must know the goal of your visit.  Let them know that you are there to improve a process or understand a problem, not to evaluate the people’s performance.  Go to the area and observe what is going on, observe to understand, not to judge.

Ask What

The second piece to gain understanding is to talk with the people who do the work.  Understand the situation better by asking open-ended questions.  Always ask what first, then why.

Show Respect

You are visiting the workplace of your team, their home for eight or more hours, respect them, and their second home.  Sometimes the following ways to show respect are ignored.  Do not judge, or make questions that can lead to blaming a person or department.  Listen more than you talk and do not give up the answer, let the associates learn and shine while explaining concepts and ideas that they master, not you.  Helping people to develop their skills and raise their self-esteem is a great way to show respect.

Benefits of the Gemba Walks

  • Learn about the process and the challenges associated to it, see what is really happening
  • Get facts to find the answer to a problem, or potential ideas to improve the process.
  • Develop the skills or your team, and other associates by coaching them on how to get facts using direct observation and the scientific or critical thinking (PDCA) to solve problems
  • Drive alignment inside the organization by modeling behaviors and communicating expectations.

Gemba or observation walks are a great tool to develop your team skills.  Do not waste the chance to show how much you appreciate and care about your team by not acting with respect.  Leaders must show respect at all times.  These walks are a great tool to complement the continuous improvement journey by supporting the culture change and providing focus and follow-up to what is important.

What is and how to use a spaghetti chart?

A spaghetti chart or spaghetti plot is a process analysis tool.  This simple and effective tool is to trace the path of a given activity.  You can visualize the flow of people, information, or materials through the system or area.  Its name comes from the similarity in how a noodle dish looks and the diagram.

The continuous flow enables the identification of waste within the system.  For example, you would be able to see how many times a person has to walk to the printing room to get his/her hardcopies.  

How to draw a spaghetti chart

The following are the basic steps to draw the spaghetti diagram.

  1. Get or draw a map of the area.
  2. Define the first and last steps of the process you are going to analyze.
  3. Starting with the first step of the process, draw a continuous line or arrow pointing to the end of that step.
  4. Draw a line or arrow from there to the end of the second step.
  5. Repeat until reaching the last step.

You can support the information from this chart, measuring the distance between steps and adding how many times each station or point is reached during one cycle.  The time it takes to travel between points helps to calculate what percentage of the time the employee is moving between areas, which is waste.  Below you can see an example of a diagram used to illustrate the movements of laboratory technicians while completing one test.

what is an spaghetti chart?