Home' AME : AME Target Summer 2015 Contents SUMMER 2015 TARGET 41
A well-framed “humble question” helps
to develop people’s critical thinking skills.
Questions should not be asked to prove
people wrong; the best questions help
the person discover the answer. Ask
open-ended questions, and then be quiet
and listen. Walkers should spend much
more time listening than talking if they
wish to learn what is really happening.
Always show respect, because that sets
the tone and expectations for whatever can
or should happen next. If you adopt the
idea that gemba visits are an opportunity to
talk to the experts, the people who do the
work and who know the most about it, then
you are likely to get off to a good start.
Effective walkers do not give people the
answers. They ask questions to seek the
truth and help people to develop their own
skills to find and implement solutions.
This is the ultimate form of respect, and it
demonstrates trust in people’s capabilities.
3. Debrief the walk.
Take time to assess what you are trying
to accomplish by doing these walks. A
great time for a reflective dialogue on
gemba walks is right after they complete
one, by debriefing with walk participants.
Talk about what went well and what
could have been better. Perhaps have
people write down the actual questions
asked during the walk. During your re-
flection period, discuss the following:
1. Did the questions asked surface the
information that was sought? Did they
build the self-esteem of your asso-
ciates (are they nonjudgmental) and
promote a culture of communication
and collaboration for improvement
between walkers and workers?
2. What was done well during this walk?
3. What could be done better during the
next walk? For example:
• Are open or closed questions asked?
• How much listening was done vs.
• What is not happening that you
expected to occur? Write it down.
4. Does the questioner remain humble
(a spirit of learning), or does he or she
jump to problem-solving diagnosis
5. Close the debrief by asking:
• Did we make any decisions during the
• If yes, how are we going to communi-
cate that decision?
• How are we going to follow up on
A respectful, effective gemba walk builds
trust and lays the groundwork for further
transformation. It is amazing what you
can learn during a walk. How can you be
an effective leader and not want to do
Coaching the gemba walkers
You will become a much better gemba
walker with effective coaching support. If
you are new to the gemba walk process
consider asking a more experienced
person to provide you with some feed-
back on your efforts. A good coach can
observe the gemba walker’s activities
and suggest simple ways to get more
out of your gemba walks.
According to Dr. Jeffrey Liker, “Doing
a gemba walk has become a common
lean practice, and people assume it’s
simply going to the gemba to under-
stand the work, be present and see the
issues. In other words, it is sort of a
random walk to find problems. However,
it is much more than this. Done correctly,
it is a critical piece of the improvement
process that helps organizations to set
direction with challenging targets and to
learn to more effectively see problems,
abnormalities, waste and opportunities.”
Great coaches move beyond these
leadership basics and help walkers to
incorporate Steps 3, 4, and 5 below into
their normal gemba walk routine. The lat-
ter three steps are a means to increasing
trust levels with employees and between
cross-functional work groups. They also
serve as powerful change levers if incor-
porated into your gemba walk process.
The best coaches inspire walkers to:
1. Teach/coach associates to develop
their ability to perform and to fix and
improve their processes.
2. Have the tenacity to stay the course,
yet balance that drive with a humility
that permits them to stay in touch
with reality as it actually exists.
3. Align support systems (planning,
measurement, communications, etc.)
to support and accelerate improve-
ment efforts and elevate the organiza-
tion’s improvement maturity.
Acting as a coach
Coaching leaders in gemba walks can
seem challenging at first. It’s quite easy
for most of us to see the need in other
people for change, but unless faced
with a major obstacle, it is often difficult
for successful leaders to see a personal
need to change.
Here are a couple of suggestions that
might make it easier to coach a success-
ful leader on gemba walks.
1. Improve the business. Gain an un-
derstanding of what the leader is trying
to accomplish with the business. What
are the two or three most important
improvement targets? Why are those
the target? A question we like to start
with is, “What three things would you
like your direct customers to say about
the services/products provided by your
2. Create an agreement. Does the lead-
er wish to be coached? Does the leader
have a willingness to create a safe space
to receive feedback? Is there a specific
behavior or deep understanding of lean
where the leader desires feedback? And
what about other observations by the
coach? Is the leader receptive to discuss
them in an open-minded way?
3. Observe the walker(s). Are the walks
done in a standard work type fashion
(preparation, doing the walk, debrief-
ing)? Does the walker move beyond the
leadership basics (described above)?
How effectively does the walker Go See,
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