The Gemba walk should be the daily activity of any manager. This activity should be practiced regularly. However, walking a virtual process is much more complicated than a physical process. In this article, I present you some tips to get there.
The principle of the Gemba walk is to take the pulse of operations. Ideally, the activity is done daily, but it can also be done when a problem arises: we walk to the place of the problem to better understand it. Finally gemba walks are used when improving a process, to get a good grasp of it.
Start with the value chain
A virtual process is more complicated to follow than a physical process: there is no physical object that moves, since it is information or a service that is generated. The first step is to identify the main process, the value chain. Ideally, a mapping of the process, with the different steps, will be very useful to get started.
All the “manual” stages are observed the same way as in the factory: we go see the person who carries out this step, and we look at him or her working. Instead of manipulating a hoist, he or she speaks with a customer, enters information into a system, manipulates a file, … The techniques are the same as for a physical process: we question the added value of each operation, mouse click, data entered, screen navigation, …
Find all steps, and ways to watch them
However, much of the value can be generated by software calculations or information transfer … Since you will not be able to walk on computer streams, you will have to be cunning …
- Identify the software used at each stage of the process
- List all data exchanges
- Find all key resources: software programmer, network technician, …
Then you have to spend time with these experts to “walk” the different stages with us: they are often able to provide charts or diagrams of the operation of the software, the rules of calculation or the network used to negotiate information. The efficiency of the information system, the robustness of the servers and the architecture are also a guarantee of excellence: a slow system will slow down the people who use it or ultimately deteriorate the overall performance of the process.
The information system is part of the process and needs to be audited just like the rest of the operations