The workplace today has vastly evolved with the solutions, methods, and platforms that now exist to better manage the challenges and inefficiencies impacting their day-to-day productivity.
One of those tools, not as commonly known, but still highly effective is a Gemba Board. Gemba is Japanese for “the actual place.” When it comes to businesses, committees, or us as individuals trying to improve processes, we often ask where the actual problem lies, and from there we craft our solution. The Gemba Board does just that – and we’re going to show you how.
A Gemba Board is a visual management tool that works cohesively with your existing set of solutions and systems to monitor how productivity, communication, and the usual modus operandi process can shift to help improve, restructure, or bring greater stability within the organization. This form of transparent knowledge sharing pushes the business to find balance and behave as one functional ecosystem.
In order to achieve the benefits of a Gemba Board and capitalize on what it offers, it’s critical to take a step back and understand the true importance of a Gemba Board. It’s not just another software to add to the pile, or a tool that gets implemented but then goes left unused; rather it is a way of thinking, a full mindset for the organization to embed into their daily work to better manage workflows and processes.
It all starts by looking in “the actual place” as Gemba states – by doing what is known as a Gemba Walk.
The Gemba Walk introduces leaders and managers to meet their business head-on in a way they may not always have the time or means to conduct this full analysis. Its main focus is to be an active learning and engagement experience where those managers inhale everything in front of them without taking a reactive or defensive position. The goal is to observe, obtain, and have open dialogue.
● Observe the real-time status of day-to-day activity and operations of all involved.
● Obtain awareness and knowledge of what is running smoothly as well as where there are hiccups and how they’re currently being resolved.
● Open dialogue with employees and all staff who have that hands-on connection to provide direct insight on pain points.
Through their own eyes in this process, top leaders and executives gain that granular and essential perspective into the work that drives their bottom line, while making it a priority to let their teams feel seen AND heard. It provides an objective analysis rather than an assumptive one that can often take course when leaders want a solution but need somewhere or someone to hold accountability.
The value of a Gemba Board is not partial to just one industry or one style of workplace, although there are some workplaces that may benefit more from the use of a Gemba Board and its analysis.
Where there is a need for direct transparency on the status of information that may have an impact on results performance, quality measures, or operational productivity, this is where a Gemba Board finds it fitting in creating real value.
This may be a shop floor and a front-line team, a triage department and a team of nurses, in-service training and Human Resources, or a board committee and executive leaders. These all exemplify where a Gemba Board is most necessary – for clean, digestible data visibility for anyone involved, at any level. Everyone should play a part in its management to ensure measurables are accurate and only require a quick glance to be fully understood.
Your Gemba Board needs to work with you and your team, in how you process information, make decisions, and analyze solutions when multiple problems may be coinciding. The best way to answer the question of what should be displayed on boards, is to decide on the areas that cannot afford much error, play a significant role in influencing revenue, and require everyone’s attention, not just a select few.
From there, a Gemba Board should leverage the benefits of color theory, visual perception tactics, and real-time information analysis that data visualization also utilizes.
Take these into consideration as you decide the KPIs and measurables that demand this targeted attention.
As for the specific columns and rows to include in your Gemba Board for tracking and keeping everyone accountable, here are some Gemba board examples of column title ideas:
Now that you know what’s valuable to include, it’s time to build your process and analysis. Looking to get started? Here at Bearex we have 5 tips that will get you going on your first Gemba Board layout.
Talk the talk, and walk the walk. Do not neglect your Gemba Board after the initial efforts that went into the evaluation, observation, and engagement process by those on your team. Considering the fact everyone will be looking at this on a daily basis so you need to ensure the data remains timely and accurate. This also means your Gemba Board too should receive an analysis from time to time, asking whether you should measure anything differently, share it in a new way, or create a new category altogether if deemed necessary.
Since the whole point of a Gemba Board is to keep it up for constant awareness, you also want to keep in mind the risk of letting it go hidden because it becomes habitual. It is also a people management tool, not with the same individual improvement purpose of performance reviews, but it should inspire communication and drive accountability. When you analyze your measurables and processes, take time to assess your people too and how different departments may take turns sharing top insights or how varying levels within a team can use it to facilitate discussion.
This tip is most valuable at the beginning setup stages of your Gemba Board, and can even be talked about during the Gemba Walk process. When employees and managers talk through pain points, daily action, and workflow status, make it known that everyone’s opinion can also go into the contents of the boards. Every role and job level at an organization holds a different experience to influence how they see the most effective method; and even so, not every manager thinks the same as the next. Collecting all opinions can be overwhelming, but try to keep it simple. Lead with direct but consistent questions that you can easily gather and define next steps from.
At the end of the day, you want employees engaged and performance progressing. The best way for something to draw attention is to make it stand out – allow your Gemba Board to elicit the culture in which you are trying to evoke across the entire business. Engaging colors, interactive charts and bold visuals will support greater motivation and teamwork to reach goals or make improvements.
ecause Gemba Boards lead with this mindset of “all hands on deck” and “right here and right now,” remind your team that while the data provides a lot of insight, it can not always speak for itself. Where there are gaps in key information or alerts not being calculated/notified properly, anyone can and should feel comfortable to speak up. By addressing the issue in the moment, the overhaul on the business as a whole greatly diminishes and greater operational efficiencies come as a result.
For the sake of ensuring stability and consistency, it is important to test your Gemba Board for some time without making any drastic changes. This allows for further discussion as shortfalls are uncovered, new strategies get developed, and new processes are discussed and standardized.
Once this is established, you can take your Gemba Board one step further → automate it.
To automate a Gemba Board means to make it dynamic, updated in real-time, and fully integrated into your data sources and information systems. This can be done by embedding your boards into a full EOS business intelligence solution or software that already houses, cleans, and connects to your most critical data.
Instead of stagnant boards that require manual updating, much more constant maintenance, and leave room for human error – much like static reports – an automated Gemba Board can still sit at the forefront of the room, for everyone to see, but on a full electronic display, updated in real-time the moment data is input and impacts the measurables in each category.
You can pair your Gemba Board with a dashboard that allows for live, at-a-glance data correlation alongside your boards’ top priority categories. You can assess the current status with that week’s goals, industry trends, or larger-scale objectives as data sources, spreadsheets, softwares, and reports run regularly.
Automation does not just simply mean allowing something to run on its own. While this is essentially the main benefit to come from automating your Gemba Board, it also allows leaders to see their business from a holistic view. They can have a constant pulse on what they evaluated during their Gemba Walk. From there, they can trust more reliable data to make sound decisions without wasting time on areas that in the end just waste more resources than optimize them.
While Gemba Board manufacturing is found as a common industry implementation, it’s important to remember just how flexible and adaptive this process is. By following the steps and tips we’ve laid out for you in this article, you too can find ways to bring boards into your workplace.
When ready, see how automating a Gemba Board can provide you with that additional layer of shared knowledge as your data communicates with one another and translates that to your boards’ top factors being measured. When the Gemba Board becomes another integration into your automation process, the colors and structure you gave to it when stagnant can now be dynamic as well, shifting based on hitting certain thresholds or variable changes.
As COO & EOS Implementer at Bearex, Andrew aims to help entrepreneurial businesses use data to gain traction through his experience in organizational leadership and startup sales & marketing.