Aim for “Effectiveness” in Your Gemba Walks, Not “Efficiency”


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This is an elaboration on something I originally posted on LinkedIn.

I saw somebody touting an approach that would guarantee “maximum efficiency for your management gemba walks.”

Ah, the efficiency trap. Is efficiency really the goal here?

Efficiency is usually defined as outputs divided by inputs. Visiting more departments more quickly would increase “efficiency.”

Shouldn't the goal there be “maximum effectiveness?”

Effective walks should include stopping to engage with employees, to see, to listen, to problem solve… those things take time.

If the goal is efficiency, to check the box on making a superficial visit to each department, I'd suggest roller skates or a Segway.

My LinkedIn Post triggered some interesting comments:

Liam Cassidy:

“Well said Mark! Spot on. Those engaging on such walks should enjoy interacting with people. Improving the workplace and productivity anyway will be an indirect output if they truly listen and observe. I have seen far too many managers/leaders embark on such activity after a seminar or workshop just for the sake of it. They get rumbled quickly. Employees are smart and can spot an actor a long way off!”

I agree that Gemba Walks must be done with the right spirit. If it's being done to check a box or to make some higher executive happy, it's going to show. The Gemba Walks might not be worth the steps.

Another comment:

Rose-Marie Cervone, MPA, BSN, RN

I have seen leaders who hurried through their walks on the floors of hospitals. They would find broken tiles on the floors. When they tried to talk to staff, the nurses would hide in patients' rooms. The Nurse Director of the floor would talk to the Senior Leader. My job was to take notes. The Senior Leaders would walk down the patient care wings but never enter a patient room. It was a waste of time for everyone.

I can see why it was a waste. Leaders can't just stomp through a department, avoiding tough issues or not wanting to see problems. Leaders often have to build trust with their staff before any Gemba time can be meaningful and effective.

Here are some past posts of mine related to “gemba walks,” as part of a “Throwback Thursday, of sorts:”

Here is a silly cartoon that shows an executive who is, perhaps, “being efficient” with their Gemba Walks:

In this blog post, I tell a story about a manager thinking that shaking every employee's hand was a good substitute for a proper Lean Gemba Walk:

This post includes a video of Mischelle McMillan from Franciscan St. Francis Health:

Here is a podcast with Michael Bremer about his book on Gemba Walks:

And, again, some humor with Homer Simpson in the workplace:

And here is a post about an article by Quint Studer on “rounding,” and I discuss the similarities of “Gemba Walks” and “rounding with a purpose.”

What are some of your lessons learned about Gemba Walks?

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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. Here is an article I saw today on the mindsets for effective Gemba Walks.


    The problem is that leaders often approach both Lean and visiting the workplace on gemba walks with a fixed or closed mindset, instead of an open and discovery mindset. The former focuses on blame, solutions and showing who’s boss. The latter focuses on learning, cutting through the noise and developing a greater understanding of the real issues that are impacting people, process and business performance.


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