Training material

Gemba Walk Checklist & Questions

Last updated: July 10, 2024

Table of Contents

What Is a Gemba Walk Checklist?

Used in Lean management, a Gemba Walk Checklist is a form containing a series of checkpoints and questions validated by managers during their regular Gemba Walk. Thanks to its structured approach, team leaders, managers, and directors go to the workplace (or Gemba in Japanese) to identify inefficiencies, gather insight, and engage with frontline employees. These checklists assist whoever carries out the Gemba Walk every step of the way to ensure that everything is being reviewed and optimized.

Gemba Walk Checklists aim to generate improvement opportunities and to proactively identify issues before they impact production (Quality, Health and safety, and Productivity).

Gemba Walk Checklists Help Managers to:

  • Observe Processes: Systematically assess the performance of tasks.
  • Detect Issues: Identify potential problems and deviations from standards.
  • Engage with Employees: Actively involve and question frontline workers.
  • Spot Improvement Opportunities: Seek ways to optimize processes and enhance efficiency.
  • Document information: Collect observations, annotate, and take photos.

The Importance of Standardized Checklists

Gemba Walks, when not standardized, may yield inconsistent outcomes. Without a structured checklist, managers conducting spontaneous Gemba Walks may address the first issues they stumble upon. This approach can vary widely depending on who is performing the walk.

Bringing Consistency

However, standardized checklists bring consistency. Standardized questions establish consistent operational control for all departments, shifts, and production units. This consistency also streamlines training new supervisors and managers who can follow the procedure.

Enhancing Support for Frontline Workers

Furthermore, standard Gemba walks provide continuous support to frontline workers. When encountering a potential issue, they are more likely to wait for their supervisor’s scheduled Gemba Walk because they know the standardized questions will address their concerns. This structured approach ensures steady and reliable support throughout the day.

Gemba Walk checklists promote control and facilitate Leader Standard Work while ensuring that frontline workers receive the support they need.

Familiarizing with Key Questions

A Gemba Walk isn’t a test or an evaluation of the workforce; instead, it is a method centered around assessing worker availability, job planning, materials, equipment, and information. Being well-acquainted with the critical questions used for validation, frontline workers and team leaders should be active agents in the Gemba Walk process.

Workers must understand that their supervisors conduct Gemba Walks to assist them in finding solutions rather than as a means of punishment. This comprehension fosters greater adherence to this valuable practice.

What Do Gemba Walk Checklists Help Validate?

The manager’s role involves validating elements affecting key performance indicators tied to the organization’s objectives. This proactive approach includes improving workplace safety, reducing customer complaints, minimizing rework, and meeting delivery goals.

Identifying Issues at Various Time Points:

  1. Past Issues: This phase involves formulating questions to prevent the recurrence of past problems.
  2. Current Issues: This phase focuses on immediate action, issue resolution, task assignment, and information sharing with relevant stakeholders.
  3. Future Issues: This phase emphasizes preventive measures to avert potential problems.

Question Formulation Depends On:

  • Time frame: Past, Present, or Future.
  • Category: Requirements, Productivity, Quality.
  • Subject: Workers, Information, Material, Equipment.

Consider a 5S system in a workstation as a set standard. Managers can assess its compliance, particularly concerning the current timeframe and equipment requirements.

Choosing the Best Gemba Walk Questions

Begin by identifying the specific deviations from the standard you aim to uncover. Next, formulate questions that facilitate the identification of issues, data collection, process evaluation, and employee insights. To ensure the relevance of the potential problems raised, focus on their actionability – their potential for actionable steps.

Ensure that:

  • Questions are aimed at finding solutions rather than assigning blame.
  • Questions pinpoint pertinent deviations.
  • Potential issues directly affect the organization’s key performance indicators.

Examples of Gemba Walks Questions According to Roles

It is essential to tailor Gemba Walk questions to the specific roles of the individuals executing them; they must align with the responsibilities and concerns of each position within the organization. For instance, team leaders focus on immediate issues and team productivity, production managers address operational aspects, and executives oversee strategic objectives.

Here are some examples of Gemba Walk questions for different roles.

Gemba Walk Checklist for Team Leaders:

  • “Have there been any unforeseen quality-related problems in the past two hours?”
  • “Are Health and Safety standards upheld?”
  • “Is the worker at his station?”
  • “Is the 5S standard respected?”
  • “Does the production rate follow the schedule?”
  • “Does the worker know the next priority?”
  • “Does the employee have all the required tools for the next task?”
  • “Are there any other issues to address?”

Gemba Walk Checklist for Production Managers:

  • “Are there any issues to transfer to a higher management level?”
  • “Have there been any unforeseen quality-related problems in the past two hours?”
  • “Is the equipment working properly? Does it need maintenance?”
  • “Does the department need more people for the next job?”
  • “Is the 5S standard being maintained? Are there any suggestions for improvement?”
  • “Is the team leader aware of the priorities?”
  • “Are we meeting our overall production targets for the day/week?”
  • “Are there any other issues to talk about?”
  • “Did the team leader perform his two Gemba Walks?”

Gemba Walk Checklist for Executives or Directors:

  • “Are Health and Safety standards respected?”
  • “Could we reduce waste?”
  • “Are there any critical issues or obstacles affecting our strategic goals?”
  • “How well are we aligning our operational practices with corporate objectives?”
  • “Are we investing in the right technology and resources to stay innovative?”
  • “What measures are in place to foster a culture of continuous improvement? Are they effective?”
  • “Is our overall performance meeting key performance indicators (KPIs)?”

Each role’s dedicated checklist ensures that the correct issues are addressed, enabling the organization to meet its goals effectively at different management levels. This approach promotes a more systematic and comprehensive presence of all levels of management on the shop floor.

How Many Questions Should Supervisors Go Through?

The number of questions on the Gemba Walk checklist is optional as long as the entire process can be completed within 15 to 25 minutes. Too many questions on the list can overwhelm leaders, making it challenging to identify all issues effectively. Keep the questions concise and impactful.

Additionally, when discussing identified problems with workers, it’s recommended to inquire about the “what,” “why,” and “how” aspects. It’s more effective to ask fewer, broader questions and delve deeper into your understanding of the issues.

Implementing a Gemba Walk Structure

To structure your Gemba Walk practices, consider the following steps:

  1. Update the Organizational Chart: Ensure your company’s organizational chart is current and accurately represents your team’s structure.
  2. Introduce the Gemba Walk: Conduct an introductory meeting to present and explain the Gemba Walk to the team.
  3. Develop Gemba Walk Checklists: Create specific checklists tailored to each role and your objectives.
  4. Establish a Regular Schedule: Set a consistent, recurring schedule for Gemba Walks to ensure they happen at planned intervals and to promote Leader Standard Work.
  5. Individually Shadow Team Leaders: Take the time to shadow each team leader individually during their first Gemba Walks to allow for observation and support.
  6. Schedule Improvement Meetings: Organize follow-up improvement meetings to discuss findings and develop action plans.
  7. Sustain the Gemba Walk: Implement measures to ensure your process’s ongoing effectiveness and sustainability (feedback mechanisms, standardized documentation, etc.).
A pyramid diagram for Tervene showing three management levels: Directors, Middle-Managers, and Supervisors/Team-Leaders, with their Gemba Walk frequency ranging from daily to monthly, targeting Work Area to Factory.

Benefits of Digital Gemba Walk Questions and Checklists

Digital Gemba Walk questions and checklists ensure consistent and accurate data capture. Cementing a culture of continuous enhancement and operational excellence, features like mandatory questions and automated follow-up actions simplify issue tracking and improvement implementation.

Customizable digital checklists enable adaptability and data-driven decision-making. Teams can access historical data, address issues proactively, and drive sustainable improvements to improve productivity.

Tervene’s Gemba Walk Solution

Tervene’s mobile Gemba Walk solution empowers organizations to create standardized checklists to enhance operational control.

Related Resources about Gemba Walks

Essential Features of a Gemba Walk App

Who Should Perform Systematic Gemba Walks?

How to Measure the Quality of Gemba Walks?

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