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We’ve covered Management By Wandering Around, or MBWA, on The Clarity Blog before; but one question we get asked is, “is MBWA the same as a Gemba Walk?”, in fact, we get asked so often that we have put together this blog post. Read more about the definitive guide to the very big difference between the two…
Our previous blog post talked in detail about the benefits of Management By Wandering Around and it’s a popular post amongst our readers, so much so that we received lots of questions about how close MBWA is to a Gemba Walk. Furthermore, when we’re out meeting with our clients our Visual Management Advisors often discuss in detail how they can get the most from their Lean programmes, Gemba Walks often come up time and time again.
It’s often assumed that Gemba Walks and Management By Wandering Around are the same things, and it’s easy to see why – both techniques involve walking around a workplace, but that is where the similarity ends. To help you see the difference, we’ve created this definitive guide:
Management By Wandering Around, by definition, is not very specific, targeted or structured. In fact, it’s recommended that it’s not given that much structure, only in the sense that the areas of focus should be moved around to avoid bias. MBWA simply involves ‘seeing’ what’s going on in a very broad way, and checking progress/looking for things that are not being done properly, whilst having passing conversations with staff. However, Gemba Walks specifically exist to carefully examine the current state of work within a process by observing it in action, where it happens. Gemba Walks are designed to be narrow in their focus and very specific in their goal.
As mentioned above, the structure of Management By Wandering Around isn’t predefined or determined in any particular detail (only in as much as making an effort to wander a different area each time), whereas a Gemba Walk takes the manager to a very specific place and process. A properly executed Gemba Walk takes planning and focus in order to be worthwhile – in other words, you need to plan and know ahead of time when/where you will be.
We’ve covered that to be successful, a Gemba Walk needs to be pre-planned and targeted. What’s more, during a Gemba Walk the manager needs to ask very specific and in-depth questions about what they are observing in the process. Who is involved? What is happening? What are you doing? When/why is this happening? In contrast, Management By Wandering Around isn’t anywhere near as in-depth, nor is the manager expected to go into as much detail as with a Gemba Walk; usually, with MBWA the manager couldn’t ask such detailed questions anyway as the point is that it covers the entire workforce and all its specialisms.
The tactics employed for MBWA and Gemba Walks make their approaches very different. Organisations that use Gemba Walks effectively have a structured way of understanding a particular process and can then use this to improve the business, one process at a time.
Both techniques exist as a way to improve the business but in different ways. Opportunities for improvement are identified but aren’t immediately acted upon during a Gemba Walk. As mentioned above, Gemba Walks are about asking questions, rather than putting immediate actions in place. The benefit of this approach is that this detailed preparation can be used to form a completed PDCA (Plan, Do, Check, Act) cycle ensuring longer-term, sustainable improvements are made.
Management By Wandering Around takes a much more relaxed approach, so changes whilst on the wander can be common. This isn’t necessarily a practice that we would recommend however as these changes can often be half-baked and actually more disruptive than helpful. We would suggest that managers complete their wander, digest the feedback and make some carefully considered actions.
As you can see, Management By Wandering Around and Gemba Walks might on the face of it seem similar but they’re actually hugely different in many ways! How do you use MBWA and Gemba Walks in your workplace? Could visual management help you on a Gemba Walk or during your Management By Wandering around? Speak with Clarity and let us transform the way that you communicate to your workforce!
Here at Clarity Visual Management, we consult with clients both far and wide about how they can use visual management to achieve their goals, exceed their targets and make financial savings which would otherwise be lost to waste. We work with our clients to create a bespoke strategy that ensures visual management is set up for success before providing specific, high-quality Lean products to sustain the visual management programme and make Lean work in the organisation long-term.
You can read more about the work we’ve undertaken with our clients by browsing through our Visual Management Case Studies.
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