If you want to improve, shut up and go to GEMBA!

If you want to improve, shut up and go to GEMBA!

Roughly translated, Gemba means “the real place”. The Gemba can be thought of as ground zero. It is not just the shop floor, it is the scene of the crime, it is being on location, or when considering Kaizen, it is the place where value is added.

Going to Gemba requires a deep curiosity to know what is really going on at the real place and not what you assume is going on, or what you heard is going on, but what is really going on. It requires a skills to “Observe” as to how the work is performed. The goal should be to understand the current reality of the situation more clearly. It also requires respect for people as you go to the real place where value is added and engage with the value creator. The words of Toyota Chairman Fujio Cho, “Go see, ask why, show respect” are now famous as basic Lean principles.

What is 3G? 

3 G means that “In case of an abnormality, all the concerned members should actually go to the place where the problem has occurred, see the actual thing and take realistic action to solve the problem”. 

In Japanese language this point is compiled in 3 words:




The first and foremost approach to control any kind of abnormality is to correctly understand the facts and take suitable actions based on facts. Another essential thing is to have a very critical eye while observing things. The best approach is to go to the shop floor many times during the day to understand the problem rather than depending on feedback which may not be correct all the times.

For the most part, western management is aware that sustained continuous improvement must involve every employee and that top management must demonstrate their support for such programs, but the true value of the Gemba is often missed. Imai San advocates a paradigm shift such that engineers and managers are part of the Gemba. The Golden Rules of Gemba Management are:

Go to Gemba – when abnormality occurs

Check Gembutsu – Machine, Materials, Failures, Rejects, etc

Search for – muda (waste), Mura (variation/inconsistency), Muri (strain/ burden on people & machines)

Speak with data – Take temporary countermeasures on the spot

Make KAIZEN™ – Remove root causes

Standardize – Standardize to prevent recurrence

Another paradigm shift for western management that Imai San emphasizes is that KAIZEN™ projects must improve Quality, Cost, and Delivery simultaneously. These can no longer be taken as independent with any one being sacrificed to improve another if companies are to remain competitive. QCD activities therefore must bridge such functions as research and development, engineering, production, sales, and after-sales service. Management activities in achieving QCD goals can be categorized as either maintaining or improving current standards. Maintenance activities are required when rejects from internal customers or returns from dissatisfied external customers occur. Either situation can usually be traced to issues arising in the Gemba. Here, managers must be concerned with determining the root cause and should implement the Standardize-Do-Check-Act derivation of Deming’s cycle. When seeking to improve the current standards, the Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle is used. Both adaptations along with relevant case studies are fully explained by Imai San.

Gemba is the real place where you can meet real people, identify real problem & offer real solutions.

Going to the gemba has become popular for the simple reason that it is powerfully effective. In today’s marketplace, every business is looking for ways to stay competitive. Imai Sans GEMBA KAIZEN™ book appeals to all levels of any organization implementing Lean strategies to achieve performance results. Imai San has successfully brought it out of the training room and back to its roots in the Gemba.

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