"Rounding" and "Gemba Walks"


StuderGroup – The Magic of Rounding

Here's a good article from Quint Studer about “rounding” — something Lean folks might refer to as a “Gemba Walk.” Studer's writing on leadership and management, although hardly referencing “Lean” or “Toyota,” is pretty well aligned with the Lean management system.

His new book, Results That Last: Hardwiring Behaviors That Will Take Your Company to the Top, is inexplicably on sale for just $4.99 at amazon.com right now (I ordered a copy just now, since I haven't read this one yet). His earlier book, Hardwiring Excellence: Purpose, Worthwhile Work, Making a Difference was very inspirational and it's something I wrote about before and recommended even to manufacturing leaders to learn from. We could all apply his methods for “hardwiring” performance in ANY organization.

So back to the article on rounding. Some snippets:

As a leader, you want your employees to be happy, productive, and loyal. Indeed, it's your job to create conditions that facilitate these qualities.

What a great start, very first sentence. How many managers blame the employees for having “poor morale”??

The good news, says Quint Studer, CEO of Studer Group, is that there is a proven way to stay on top of what your employees really want and need. It's a concept from the health care arena called “rounding” and it translates nicely to the world of business management.”Rounding is what doctors in hospitals have traditionally done to check on patients,” says Studer… “The same idea can be used in business, with a CEO, VP, or department manager ‘making the rounds' to check on the status of his or her employees. Rounding is all about gathering information in a structured way. It's proactive, not reactive. It's a way to get a handle on problems before they occur and also to reinforce positive and profitable behaviors. Best of all, it's an efficient system that yields maximum ROI.”

Sounds just like a “Gemba Walk” doesn't it? This isn't about going around and just saying hi to everyone, it's “rounding with a purpose” (to use another phrase that Studer uses that I really like).

But is this time consuming? All managers are insanely busy with meetings and reports and email, right?

In a business setting, rounding involves leaders' taking an hour a day to touch base with their employees, make a personal connection, find out what's going well, and determine what improvements can be made. Quite simply, it's a way to gather the information you need to do your job and do it well – in a timely and efficient manner.

One thing Studer advocates is focusing on the positive – what's working well? My understanding is that Toyota leaders always ask about problems first — what are your top 3 problems? They ask about problems before focusing on anything good. Maybe Studer's approach is more palatable in a typical non-Toyota culture? Many people I've worked with cringe at the word “problem” — seeing it as a far more negative word than I would myself.

Anyway, be sure to check out the article. Lots of great stuff in there. What do you think? Helpful to you in hospitals or in factories?

About the only nit I would pick is this point in Studer's 9 tips for Rounding:

6. When someone brings up a problem, assure him or her that you will do the best you can to get it resolved. Obviously, there will be circumstances you can't control. But people appreciate knowing that you will try. Sincere effort goes a long way.

Now “servant leadership” (which Toyota and Studer both advocate) is a wonderful thing. But the way Studer words it implies that any time an employee brings a problem to you, the leader, it's your job to fix it for the employee. The Lean approach encourages managers to push problem-solving and improvements to the employees themselves — if they can.

The Lean leader only takes on problems that cannot be solved by the employees. You don't want to encourage over dependence on you, the leader, to always be the problem solver and the doer. There are certain complex problems or cross-functional problems that DO require a manager's involvement. My advice is that you have to be careful to not take on everything as a manager — your time is limited… you're only one person. You can't fix it all.

But, you can using “rounding”!! Tell your employees you're borrowing a best practice from healthcare if they're tired of hearing about Toyota. :-)

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Mark Graban
Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker, and podcaster with experience in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. Mark's new book is The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation. He is also the author of Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More, the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, and the anthology Practicing Lean. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.


  1. Unfortunately most healthcare managers get lost in rounding mainly on the patient, rarely on the staff, and never on the process. The gemba walk is such a powerful tool, it is unfortunate it does not get used better. I think it would be ideal to spend less than 10% of rounding time with the customer, just enough to keep current with the VOC. The bulk of the time should be on the process and the staff.

    I do like the positive aspects of how Studer presents rounding but wonder if it loses some of its effectiveness because it is more acknowledging and supporting staff than ensuring the processes are designed to meet the customer’s requirements.

  2. I’ve found the Studer material is quite complimentary to our Lean activities. At my hospital, the association with the Studer Group has yielded some nice improvements in patient satisfaction, as well as employee involvement.

  3. Fans of Quint Studer should be aware of his upcoming leadership program. It is available live and then will be available on-demand for those that the live date is inconvenient. I have participated in this leadership series for years and highly recommend it.



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