Did you know that an astounding 80% of business problems can be solved simply by being physically present where the work is done? It may sound too good to be true, but according to Oobeya methodology “Gemba walks,” it’s an achievable reality. This business practice—hailing from Toyota—comprises leaders going to the front lines to observe operations in real time, enabling immediate issue identification and resolution. The result? A culture of continuous improvement and enhanced employee engagement. Here’s what you need to know about Gemba walks in business.

How to Do Gemba Walks in Business

Gemba walks “consist of going to the actual workplace and observing the work being done there,” explains Consulting Quest’s Bogdan Grigore. “By seeing the actual process and engaging with the individuals performing it, the leaders are in the best position to understand the operational challenges that their organization is facing.” In doing Gemba walks, leaders receive the unique opportunity to observe issues as they’re happening, as these aren’t typically evident on reports or in meetings. For example, viewing a production line may reveal inefficiencies or bottlenecks that are slowing productivity, making immediate intervention possible, says Grigore. As such, “Leaders can make informed decisions based on what they see happening in the workplace, not on what an Excel spreadsheet tells them happened in the workplace several weeks ago,” details Lean business consultant Eric A. Olsen.

Pros: Offers real-time insights, encourages employee engagement

Cons: Time-consuming for leaders

Principles and Philosophy Behind Gemba Walks

The roots of Gemba walks stem from the Japanese management philosophy “genchi genbutsu,” which means “go and see.” In other words, “Don’t make decisions by management based only on the formal reports or meetings, but go to the actual place where the work is done,” management consultant Terry A. Armstrong writes. Because its underlying principles and philosophy are so powerful, leading companies outside of the manufacturing sector—ranging from Amazon and Zappos to Ford and General Electric—have adopted the practice. Key principles include:

Respect for people: At the base of Gemba walks is the idea of respect for people, which fosters trust and collaboration among team members.

Process-based: Adopting a process-based mindset helps teams assess inefficiencies more objectively.

Data-driven: Relying on data for decision-making ensures problems are solved accurately and effectively.

Encourage Collaboration and Enablement

The real value behind gemba walks for problems solving lies in the capacity to engage employees — getting them to identify problems and finding solutions, increases morale and feelings of value in contribution and changes the tendency for management to “think they know,” which leaves them off of the improvement and development cycle, caused by excluding them from the decision-making process in favor of their own. 


  • A gemba walk enhances transparency.
  • A gemba walk fosters communication.


  • Time-consuming for leaders

Conducting Successful Gemba Walks for Problem Solving

Preparation and Objectives

To conduct successful gemba walks for problems solving, preparation is key. Leaders need to have clear objectives that guide the walk to ensure the time on the shop floor or in the office is well spent. Consistent gemba walks are those in which leaders are observing work processes every day. It’s essential to see processes in an efficient methodology, so issues can be distinguished and enhancements can be made. Posing unassuming inquiries and utilizing undivided attention will mention these observable facts much more useful, as they will permit you to hear a portion of the thoughts and worries from the bleeding edge representatives. 

Observational Focus

During a gemba walk, you should focus on observing the workflow so that you can identify bottlenecks and opportunities for improvement. By observing in this way, leaders can gather invaluable insights in how the operation works.

A gemba walk allows a leader to make detailed, direct observations of ongoing work. It is important for leaders to identify bottlenecks while ensuring that their observation does not impede the regular flow of work taking place. A structured checklist will also be valuable for guiding the leader’s observations. As they walk through a department, write down notes about any concerns or opportunities discovered during the walk. For example, if a process is delayed, this could be a sign of an inefficiency that is reducing productivity.

Safety Considerations

Safety considerations are crucial for maintaining a safe environment for everyone during a gemba walk. All leaders and employees should wear appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) such as gloves, helmets or goggles, based on the organization’s requirements. Following safety protocols will prevent accidents and injuries during the gemba walk.

Further, leaders should work with employees to identify potential safety hazards as they perform their gemba walks. Openly communicating safety concerns fosters a culture of shared responsibility for maintaining a safe working environment. By involving employees, organizations show that they care for their employees and they are serious about maintaining a safe work environment.

Streamlining Data Collection

Using technology, leaders can collect data more efficiently while on their gemba walks. Mobile apps and digital checklists will provide leaders with an efficient means of capturing observations and noting issues on the floor of a factory or shop. These digital platforms integrate observations directly into a team’s information stream in real time and can be input much more efficiently.

The use of digital checklists will also allow supervisors to track progress more effectively as their department improves and identify improvements more quickly. Removing paper and pencil records also eliminates the need for transcription later on. This integration of technology makes the information gathered during the gemba walk truly accessible and organized.

Enhancing the training experience with AR/VR

To upgrade the preparation experience during gemba strolls, associations can exploit Expanded Reality (AR) and Computer generated Reality (VR) advancements. With AR or VR recreation, representatives can submerge themselves in a great many situations in their workplace. This hands-on approach enables continuous learning, offering employees real experiences on the factory floor without taking away from production line time.

Bringing AR or VR to gemba walks creates interactive training environments for employees to address real-life challenges on the factory floor. This further enhances employee communication and has the added benefit of increased productivity as a result, thanks in part to the culture of continuous improvement that an enhanced gemba walk training experience can help foster.


The recurrence of gemba strolls shifts relying upon the kind of business and its improvement goals. A few organizations play out a gemba walk consistently, while others just to do it one time per week or a month. It’s essential to decide a schedule that is consistently consistent with the organization.

Regular gemba walks help managers maintain a close relationship with their frontline workers, the opportunity to better understand its processes, and a chance to quickly identify issues. For instance, in a manufacturing plant, gemba walks done daily can lead to quick quality control and problem-solving.

Main Objectives

The primary targets of a gemba walk are critical thinking, process improvement, and representative commitment. While on the floor, pioneers can figure out which activities should be refined, as well as which cycles helps and hampers efficiency.

Managers, while actively participating in a gemba walk, can address which most need attention immediately, rather than relying on reports and feedback to filter through each level of management. This enables a culture of continuous improvement within an organization.

Improved Operational Efficiency

Gemba strolls lead to worked on functional productivity by permitting supervisors to notice processes firsthand, recognize bottlenecks, and execute prompt arrangements. This involved methodology smoothes out tasks, decrease margin time, and upgrade generally speaking work process.

Carrying out gemba strolls can bring about decreased squander, as workers on the ground are enabled to detect failures and recommend upgrades. By addressing issues promptly during these walks, companies can minimize unnecessary costs associated with wasteful practices.

Fostering a Culture of Innovation

Gemba strolls include representatives in critical thinking, empowering them to contribute thoughts for process improvement. This comprehensive methodology encourages a culture of development where staff feel esteemed for their bits of knowledge and are roused to look for better approaches to working ceaselessly.

Best Practices for Conducting Effective Gemba Walks

Show genuine interest, respect, and appreciation for employees’ contributions during gemba walks. This positive approach fosters trust and encourages open communication among team members.

Energize Cross-useful Joint effort By including people from different divisions in gemba strolls, you can acquire assorted viewpoints on the cycles being noticed. This cross-practical joint effort frequently prompts creative arrangements and a more profound comprehension of the functional difficulties looked by changed groups.

Document Observations and Action Items

It is crucial to document observations made during gemba walks along with any identified action items. By doing so, you ensure accountability within the team and provide a clear roadmap for addressing issues promptly. Documenting follow-up plans enables tracking progress over time and evaluating the effectiveness of implemented solutions.

Gemba walks open up new vistas of possibility in problem-solving for your business. They do so by infusing the principles, techniques and benefits of Gemba walks into your operations – to make them more efficient and effective, and to help you solve problems on the fly. Now it’s time for you to put all of that knowledge to work yourself. Unshackle yourself by using the techniques in this book to launch Gemba walks in your own operations. Use the insights through your sojourn in your operations to address issues quickly and safely, while engaging in keen observation. Their ripple effect will work to turn your attention proactively to solving problems in real time and your attention leads the way. This approach will transform your business. Go ahead – take that first step – or walk – in a better direction.