Agile Project Management – Gemba Walk

gemba walk

One of the keys factors of delivering a quality product is to actually physically see, inspect and approve the processes & practices involved in producing the project results.

In the field of engineering there is a term known as “arm chair engineering”. It means that a design created and approved by an engineer sitting in an office, may or may not meet the actual requirements of implementing that design in the field or in a factory.

To some extent, the operational issues can be pro-actively avoided, but not all issues can be predicted in advance. A design, or process may look great on paper but may end up being a failure during and/or after implementation.

Gemba Walk brings to light problems such as:

  • Assuming we know what the problem is without seeing what is actually happening
  • Assuming we know how to fix a problem without finding out what is causing it
  • Assuming we know what is causing the problem without confirming it
  • Failing to clarify the gap between what is actually happening and what should be happening

Suggested solutions to the above problems:

  • Take the walk. Go see the project team, and evaluate processes and on-going performance. At various stages, check if the predicted results match the actual results.
  • It is a given, that every project faces issues no matter what. Being on top of things, and routinely checking for any inconsistencies is a smart way to handle smaller issues, and avoid big ones altogether. Take the walk, ask questions to relevant team members. Constantly evaluate.
  • If a problem arises, have a method in place for doing root-cause analysis. Build contingencies into designs/processes to avoid any major failures.
  • Be practical! Being ambitious is good, but knowing what is achievable is more important than over-promising and under-delivering.
  • Always have a grasp on the situation!



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