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The Gemba Walk

As part of a recent engagement I went to assess and coach a group of Agile teams out in Iowa.  Each morning, we would arrive before the daily stand-ups.  Each morning we walked around, listened in on conversations and got updates from the teams.  We quietly studied their large team boards and then how they interacted with the boards and one another. I would describe this daily stroll as our Gemba Walk.  Gemba is a Japanese term meaning “the real place.” In business, it refers to the place where value is created; in our case the gemba was the west side of the building on the 5th floor where the teams were located.

Gemba Walk

In lean manufacturing, the idea of gemba is that the problems are visible, and the best improvement ideas will come from going to the gemba. The gemba walk, much like Management By Walking Around (MBWA), is an activity that takes management to those doing the actual value delivery, to look for waste and opportunities to practice gemba kaizen, or practical shopfloor improvement.  If you are in management and you want to make a real difference, get out of your office and go on a gemba walk.

If you are on a project team, do your managers go on a daily gemba walk?

HT: Wikipedia


About Derek Huether

I'm Vice President of ALM Platforms at LeadingAgile. Author of Zombie Project Management (available on Amazon). Novice angel investor.

8 Responses to “The Gemba Walk”

  1. September 16, 2011 at 4:37 am

    Every day!

    • Anonymous
      September 16, 2011 at 4:43 am

      I’m sure your teams are thankful they have you. I hope others are inspired to do the same!

  2. Fabrice Aimetti
    September 16, 2011 at 6:47 am

    Hello Derek,

    Nice post! I’ve translated it into french :


    • Anonymous
      September 16, 2011 at 12:41 pm

      Fabrice, thank you for reading it and thank you for the translation!

  3. September 16, 2011 at 12:37 pm


    • Anonymous
      September 16, 2011 at 12:43 pm

      I am Spartacus! 

  4. September 17, 2011 at 2:17 pm

    I’ve always believed in getting out of the office and walking around is better… It proves to the team that you are on truly engaged with them and not making a decision in isolation. Great article Derek!

    • Anonymous
      September 17, 2011 at 2:51 pm

      Charles, I agree with you. I think the team wants (and needs) that proof. Managing and leading is more than pontificating from a corner office.

      Thanks for reading my stuff!

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