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Gemba Kaizen

June 23rd, 2009 by Moti Karmona | מוטי קרמונה · 3 Comments


* Gemba (現場) in Japanese means “the actual place” or “the real place”
* Kaizen (改善) in Japanese means “improvement”

In business, Gemba refers to the place where value is created and the general notion is that the best improvement ideas will come simply from going to the Gemba (‘bottom-up’ vs. ‘top-down’)

The ‘Gemba Walk’ is an activity that takes management to the front lines to look for waste and opportunities a.k.a. to practice Gemba Kaizen which is similar to the “western” concept of MBWA (Management by Walking Around)

My view

As I have posted before “To master (/control) a software project you must be able to breathe the project – inhale the chaotic butterfly movements around you and exhale with the needed adjustments…” (The Software Chaos | Feb. 2008)

Although we wish it will be different… the best optimizations are “simply” very deep into the details and I have found out that a daily practice of ‘Gemba Walk’ can be very helpful to your project “well-being” (and I must admit that it took me several years to find out that my weird walk actually had a Japanese name/theory ;)

“less important than a gnat’s toot in a hurricane” :)
Gemba Walk with Dillbert

Seven tips for an healthy ‘Gemba Walk’ / MBWA

  1. Visit everyone
  2. Go alone – Daily standup meetings aren’t enough
  3. Don’t bypass middle management e.g. don’t change priorities, requirements or design
  4. Observe, ask and LISTEN
  5. Be genuine, have fun and strive to catch your engineers doing something right and not something wrong (you are not the “fun-police” ;)
  6. Share your dreams and vision
  7. Don’t “disturb” the Gemba – Timing is everything…

What next?

  1. Correlate the Gemba / ‘bottom-up’ observations with your ‘top-down’ understanding
  2. Identify waste, risks and opportunities
  3. Kaizen – Improve and optimize accordingly

Good Luck!

Random News from BBC – Gauguin ‘cut off Van Gogh’s ear’

“Vincent van Gogh did not cut off his own ear but lost it in a fight with fellow artist Paul Gauguin in a row outside a brothel”

Tags: Management · Project Management

3 responses so far ↓

  • 1  Moran // Jun 29, 2009 at 7:01 am

    A few years ago, a research suggesting that Van Gogh suffered from vertigo disease was published.
    The main claim was that as a result :
    • The world was introduced to Van Gogh unique expressive style.
    • Van Gogh cut off his ear (to his disappointment the act wasn’t a great success, vertigo-wise).

    I admit that artists battle sells more ;-)

  • 2  Krhsna // Sep 23, 2009 at 11:59 am


    Good post on Gemba. Simple and easy to understand .

    I have also written about Lean System in my blog under Lean category.


  • 3  Moti Karmona | מוטי קרמונה // Oct 22, 2009 at 8:47 am

    Hi Krhsna,

    IMHO, your observations on “muda, mura, muri” and software management are both interesting and refreshing…

    — Moti

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