Gemba Walk: Meaning, Process, and Examples

Learn about the meaning of Gemba Walk, how to do effective Gemba Walks, and examples of how the process can promote continuous improvement.

paseo gemba realizado por el gerente en la oficina

What is a Gemba Walk?

A Gemba Walk is a workplace walkthrough which aims to observe employees, ask about their tasks, and identify productivity gains. Gemba Walk is derived from the Japanese word “Gemba” or “Gembutsu” which means “the real place”, so it is often literally defined as the act of seeing where the actual work happens. A gemba walk is a simple yet powerful lean method done by employers to promote continuous improvement.

gemba walk

What is a Safety Gemba Walk?

A safety Gemba Walk, or Gemba safety walk, is simply a safety walk integrated with the Gemba method. Safety Gemba Walks emphasize on the continuous improvement of safety by watching the actions required to complete daily tasks and determine ways to make work safer. While a typical site safety walk through aims to maintain compliance with safety standards, a safety Gemba Walk focuses on looking for opportunities to continuously improve workplace safety.

What is a Virtual Gemba Walk?

A virtual Gemba Walk, also called a remote Gemba Walk, is performed remotely using communications media such as video conferencing tools. Virtual Gemba Walks are usually conducted via one-on-one video calls, online focus group discussions, and shadowing exercises, where a worker shares his/her screen while working and his/her manager quietly observes then asks questions when deemed fit.

Why are Gemba Walks Important?

Gemba Walks help eliminate incorrect assumptions about the workforce and drive changes with a lasting positive impact. Developed in Toyota, Gemba Walks can empower organizations to sustain continuous improvement efforts and help solve disconnects between leadership vision and implementation of processes in operations.


The main goal of Gemba walks is to observe, listen, learn, and help. It is an efficient method that enables leaders to know what is and is not working by being with the workers on the floor, delving into how they approach problem-solving and continuous improvement in everyday work.

Further, Gemba walks are also done with the aim to:

  • identify issues and gain valuable insights on how to improve them;
  • reduce existing waste (redundancies, bottlenecks, non-value added steps, safety hazards, etc.) and discover where continuous improvement opportunities exist;
  • discuss goals and objectives with employees; and
  • build stable relationships with those who actually do the work and create value.


Apart from being able to proactively engage with employees, the benefits of implementing Gemba Walks include:

  • Demonstrate management commitment toward professional development
  • Boost employee morale as you care about them and value their work
  • Introduce changes that can be easily embraced by workers
  • Cultivate a culture of improvement, openness, collaboration, and teamwork
  • Streamline operations across different levels in organizations, saving time and money

3 Elements of an Effective Gemba Walk

To achieve an insightful Gemba walk, walkers can follow these 3 fundamental elements:

1. Go See

Walk around the workplace and observe if processes are done according to standards and if they produce the intended results. Participants of the walkthrough can use a Gemba walk checklist to take note of their observations and use it as a reference document during discussions of the Gemba Kaizen circle.

2. Ask Why

Gemba walkers need to probe the value stream thoroughly and identify opportunities for improvement through active communication and listening. Techniques, such as the 5 Whys, can be used to identify problematic areas of a process and ensure that they address the root causes of process issues.

3. Show Respect

Collaborate with the workers in understanding the challenges and determining how they could be addressed. With the steps involved in performing a Gemba walk, it’s important to ensure that every aspect of each process is well accounted for.

How to Do a Gemba Walk

While processes are unique for each company, any organization that wishes to conduct a Gemba Walk can be guided by the following steps:

1. Give the team or employee the courtesy of a heads-up

Ideally, the team or employees who will be observed are informed ahead of time about the Gemba Walk that will be performed and the reason why it’s going to be conducted. This will help put the employees at ease and provide the observer with a more authentic insight into what is happening at work daily.

2. Prepare the questions to get the information you need

With improvement as the ultimate goal in mind, the observer can prepare questions before the Gemba Walk as well as apply techniques such as the 5 Whys to get relevant information during Gemba Walks. They can also use checklists as guides to ensure that all points are being observed, asked, and recorded.

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3. Schedule your Gemba Walk

Never conduct Gemba Walks on the spot. Employees may feel uncomfortable and think that they have done something wrong. Schedule your Gemba Walks and inform the involved workers about them.

4. Observe only; don’t interfere

The aim is to observe and gather information, not to change anything on the spot or call out deviations during the actual Gemba Walk. This will help establish trust and avoid discomfort among employees being observed, as it will reinforce the idea that the Gemba Walk is indeed for observation to improve processes.

5. Record observations

Any improvement that will be made relies on what is recorded during observation. Write down your findings and visualize them by taking photos of what you saw and observed. It will help you recognize patterns that may call for a reworking of action items later.

6. Gather the team to discuss the learning points

After the Gemba Walk is done, follow up and share what you learned from the activity, including the issues, struggles, and gaps that need immediate action and resolution. From this, determine which processes should remain and which ones to revamp.

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Gemba Walk Questions

To ensure an effective Gemba Walk, facilitators should prepare by formulating well-designed questions in a checklist. Consider the following Gemba Walk questions:

  • What are you responsible for?
  • How does this task align with company goals?
  • What is the standard for this task?
  • How did you learn to complete this task?
  • Why do you do this specific task like that?
  • If you had it your way, how would you do this task?
  • What happens if equipment, tools, or materials are unavailable?


Here’s a real-life example of an effective Gemba Walk and the results it achieved in the organization:

Gemba Walk Example 1: The Immeasurable “Soft” Value

  • Every day at 9am, the most senior person in a facility, a Vice President, takes the walk along with the National Sales Director, Manufacturing Manager, Production Managers, Shipping Manager, Production Planner, Purchasing Manager, HR Manager, and in-house Lean group.
  • Each stop on the walk is centered around a “production board”, and if any discussion at a board lasts longer than 3 minutes, they will assign someone responsible to coordinate a meeting or initiate a review of the issue.
  • Operators at each location participate, enabling all parts of the organization to be in the loop—where everyone can provide input when issues arise.
  • As a result, direct lines of communication have immensely increased as the staff received first-hand communication on a daily basis from the senior management about what was going on in the organization.
  • Moreover, the staff knew that senior management was interested in them and their work. They witnessed their leaders identify problems and take steps to resolve them. (source)

FAQs About Gemba Walk

Gemba is a Japanese term that stands for and translates to “the real place” or “the actual place” where work is performed and value is produced. In a business setup, Gemba can refer to locations such as the factory floor, the production area, the sales site, and any other places where employees are directly engaged in producing products or providing services to customers.

It is ideal to perform a Gemba Walk once a week in each department for about 45 minutes. The frequency may vary based on company goals, team size, facilitators, and past outcomes, ranging from quarterly, to monthly, to weekly.

While there has yet to be a consensus among business management experts, a reasonable range for how long a Gemba Walk normally takes could be around 15 to 45 minutes per unit or department.

A Gemba walk is typically performed by managers, supervisors, or other leaders within a company who are responsible for overseeing teams, their production, and the various business processes performed in a specific location.

Jona Tarlengco
Article by
Jona Tarlengco
Jona Tarlengco is a content writer and researcher for SafetyCulture since 2018. She usually writes about safety and quality topics, contributing to the creation of well-researched articles. Her 5-year experience in one of the world’s leading business news organisations helps enrich the quality of the information in her work.