Shop Walk Throughs (Gemba Walks)
The Lean term for this strategy is Gemba Walks. It basically means being out in the shop seeing firsthand what is happening. More specifically, it is about making potential problems more visible.
Here are a few guidelines:
- Make positive interactions with employees.
- Ask why things are being done, even if you think you already know. Listen carefully. You may find that the employee’s view of “why” may be different than yours. If their answer is “because I was told to”, you have an opportunity to teach. If their answers is that they are adjusting for a defect they inherited, you also have an opportunity to target and correct a problem.
- Ask yourself if shop rules and procedures sometimes create negative interference with your shop’s goals and Be careful what you incentivize employees to do, you may get what you ask for. If an employee is pushing a vehicle to completion to meet a scheduled delivery, and is neglecting to fully test vehicle functionality, you are paying for on time delivery with a comeback.
- Look for cases where trying to “do the right thing” turns out to be the wrong thing.
- Considering what you know to be defects (comebacks, incorrect ordered parts, missed delivery times, etc) look for potential causes. This involves intimate knowledge of how your shop actually does work, not how you think they are doing work.
- When you see an improvement opportunity, work with the employee to find a solution. The next day (or opportunity) ask them how the solution is working. Give them some ownership by letting them shine.
- Most importantly, these walk throughs are not for the purpose of beating folks up. What you find that requires discipline should be dealt with later and not tied to the walk through in any way. Obviously, critical things like safety are dealt with immediately. The point is to have employees see the walk throughs as positive interactions and not witch hunts.
I have always felt that a good shop manager has to have “dirty fingernails”. These walk throughs help you be seen as a member of the shop floor team and help your employees think like managers.