Lean Principle - Going to the Gemba and Observing

One of the most important tools for improving productivity is simply going to the jobsite and observing for an extended period of time with the intent to understand; not to immediately interact.

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The vocabulary used in the lean body of knowledge is “Going to the Gemba” which basically means to going to the place where the work happens.  

Field Productivity: Lean Principle, Observation, Gemba and Learning to See. Definition of Gemba: Japanese term meaning the actual place.

You can look at this ability to observe in stages of development.    

  • In the beginning a person will see very few problems or details.  
  • Over time and with practice you will start many more details, problems and opportunities for improvement at increased speed.  

As your team and company evolve through continuous improvement you will develop proactive systems to more thoroughly identify problems.  You will have systematic solutions to these problems in a knowledge base used to train others.

What is important to understand is that this “Ability to See” is something that is as trainable and learnable as any other skill.

One caution is to beware of managers that create a culture where problems are seen but hidden and not talked about openly.  


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