Home' AME : AME Target Fall 2017 Contents 48 TARGET AME.ORG/TARGET
FOLLOW A LEADER
By Shannon Watson-Smith
President, The Cumberland Group–Chicago
learned long ago that you cannot give
people the answer and expect them to
then transform. They must see it. Every
day, I try to get better at doing this.
What made you decide to write a
book about the gemba walk?
Interestingly, many people say we should
do gemba walks, but I could not find any
instruction guides that told people how to
actually do one. I cobbled together five to
six pages of guidelines for a workshop.
People said the information was helpful,
but they would like to know more. So at
that point, I decided to write the book.
What did winning a Shingo Award
for your book mean to you?
Mostly, it felt like recognition for having
written a quality product that would be
meaningful to the people who read it. A
Shingo feedback report stated, “‘How to Do
a Gemba Walk’ should be required reading
for all leaders and managers, regardless of
industry, who want to effectively practice
gemba walks. ... [T]his e-book ... is over-
flowing with practical information that can
be immediately put to use.”
How has your involvement with
AME affected your career?
It has been an outstanding resource, and
I still continue to learn from the highly tal-
ented and capable people who give AME
their time. I recently did two site visits with
applicants for AME’s Excellence Award.
The three other assessors there saw things
I did not see, they built on ideas I had and
they challenged me to be at my best. It
was a fantastic experience. I have had
many of those over the years at AME.
I get excited when I see people learn,
gain confidence and take action on new
knowledge. My goal for the remainder
of my life is to shine a small light on an
alternative path where we can make our
organizations, our communities and our
global society a better place.
Shannon Watson-Smith is a writer/editor in the
Kansas City, Missouri, area.
e may consider himself
semi-retired, but Michael
Bremer is still hard at work.
As president of The Cum-
Bremer works to transform
organizations through performance
improvement. He serves as a faculty
member at the University of Chicago’s
Graham School, and is vice president for
the AME Excellence Award Council.
Bremer has been helping companies
improve their performance since the
1980s. His passion for the industry
shows through the three books he
co-authored and his most recent book,
the 2016 Shingo-award recipient “How
to Do a Gemba Walk.” He’s been an
active AME member since 1992, served
as the CFO from 2002-2008 and credits
AME for helping him continue to learn.
Target magazine recently talked with
Bremer about his award-winning book,
how he uses lean in his own business
and what he wants out of life.
How do you incorporate lean into
your own approach to business
One of the things I most enjoy about lean
is that it changes over time. An improve-
ment effort that was excellent five years
ago is no longer excellent in today’s world.
The rest of the world has gotten better at
getting better. So practitioners and consul-
tants need to continue to learn.
I was traveling around the world teach-
ing people how to use kaizen teams. We
had successfully implemented a number
of changes to a client’s processes, and
a team had delivered a very successful
presentation to their managers. When I
asked the team members what they got
out of the week, one member said, “I’ve
worked for this company for 25 years,
and it’s the first time they ever asked me
to think. And I really liked it!”
I was awestruck! I left that meeting with a
much deeper understanding of engaging
people. That experience totally altered the
way I did my work moving forward.
What’s the most important aspect
of lean that you use every day?
One of the keys to learning and growth is
finding ways to change your perspective.
I’m constantly trying to do new things,
work with new industries and work in
The tools are quite basic and easy to
use. The hard work of highly effective
improvement is the discipline to do it
every day. I constantly work on improv-
ing my listening skills and finding better
ways to ask questions and to help peo-
ple “learn to see” with their own eyes. I
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