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Going To The Electronic Gemba

By John Knotts Updated on November 14th, 2022

Going to Gemba — where the work is done — is a pretty simple concept.

Go where the work is being performed and watch what is happening.

What happens when the process is all online?  Where everything that is happening, is on screens and is all 1s and 0s.

This is when we need to go to the “electronic gemba!”  There are two activities, typically done in succession: 1) A Wall Walk, and 2) A Functional Analysis.

Wall Walk

Working with the people who own the system, walk through every screen view of the system.  Print out the pages and organize them in the appropriate steps.  Tape them to a wall in a conference room in the order of the steps.  Bring the team into the room and give each team member a set of sticky notes (extra-sticky work best).  The team members can write down one issue, idea, challenge, question, etc. per sticky note and post it on the step in question.

This can be time-consuming, if done right, so make sure you have set aside enough time for the team.  You want to capture as much input as possible.  This is an area where you might consider bringing some actual users onto your team.  Getting their first-hand input is super valuable.

Functional Analysis

This next activity can be done in succession with the wall walk or by itself.  Also, it can be done by one person or with the team (in a conference room).  Basically, you want to actually access the electronic system as if you were a user of the system.  You want to identify areas where things do not work correctly, areas that are confusing, or specific points where the user might have to stop the process and call someone (or quit all together).

When doing a functional analysis, make every attempt to break the system.  This means that you might have to run through various options and paths several times to check everything.  Again, this is a good place to involve the consumers of the system.  They can highlight things they have run into in the past and you can witness it on the screen.  Ensure that notifications sent, emails mailed, and documents shared actually show up where they are supposed to.

Not all processes are done in an easy-to-monitor manner — especially administrative ones.  When a process follows a series of steps on a computer or in an electronic system, the process can be very invisible.  In order to improve the process, you need to be able to see what is happening (and what is not).  By using this simple wall walk and functional analysis approach, you can go to gemba, electronic style.

  1. Alyssa Figarsky

    November 30, 2022 - 3:31 pm

    Hi John,

    You made some great points in this post. I have been struggling recently with my green belt project; my class focuses heavily on lean manufacturing, but my project is based on improving a sales process. Right now, the company’s process is pretty confusing and it was mentioned that the software used is not necessarily the best for Sales. Like you said, making the process more visual and walking the “electronic gemba” can really help the overall understanding. I will keep your suggestion of a wall walk and functional analysis in mind and pass along this advice to the executives at the company that I am working with.

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