• Bill Greider

Whatever You Do, Don't Go to the Roomba

One of the very first lessons we learn when we start down the road of our lean journey (highway to hell, the green mile, etc.) s that we need to go and see for ourselves. We need to see problems with our own eyes, Don't rely on lengthy reports, or make judgements about problems and definitely don't jump to solutions. We are taught early on that we n need to "go to the Gemba".

According to the world's foremost authority on all matters, Wikipedia, Japanese detectives refer to a crime scene as the GEMBA, and a news reporter may say that they are reporting from the GEMBA. GEMBA means "the real place". In terms of the work we do, the GEMBA refers to the place where the value added work is actually done, that is, the place where we do work our customer will pay for.

"GEMBA Walks" are a daily routine where a group of leaders (as part of their standard work) check in at GEMBA. The idea is that they walk the floor on a set route, asking open ending questions (humble inquiry) and showing respect. The walks demonstrate that the work that group leaders, team leaders and team members are doing with regard to improvements, goal setting and dashboard development is important! It is also an opportunity to express gratitude and encourage people to speak their mind if they have questions or concerns. If you only show up at GEMBA every other Ground Hog day, don't expect people not to treat you like the emperor with no clothes. "Nice suit boss!!" "Think it will snow Tuesday?"

A3 meetings should always happen at GEMBA, the real place where the problem exists, standing up. Try not to fall into the trap of holding A3 meetings in a warm, cozy conference room with comfy, sleep inducing chairs. An A3 meeting that take 20-25 minutes at GEMBA sometimes can turn into an hour long (or more) rambling discussion about the Mets or Fred's bachelor party last Friday night. Remember that A3 is about applying heijunka (load leveling) to improvement activity, so the goal is three 20-25 minute meetings at GEMBA per week, not one gabathon at ROOMBA once per week. This becomes critical when companies are closing several hundred A3s per year. It is stunning to learn exactly how much can be accomplished in 20 minutes when a 3-5 person self-directed work team knows exactly what needs to be accomplished when they show up. If the meetings happen once a week, it takes to long to figure out "where were we?"

A3 closings? Also best done at GEMBA, not ROOMBA. I know there are challenges (noise, etc.), but it is so easy for the beauty of the improvement and the thinking to shine through when people are actually looking at it.

Be that squeaky wheel that speaks up when you feel rigor mortis setting in at the ROOMBA....."hey, why don't we just go and see?"

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