Process improvement project - Define -

Process Walk - or "Go to Gemba"
What is a process walk?

A process walk is physically going to where the work actually occurs. It is a group of people that see the process steps that people do.

What a process walk is for?

To build deep knowledge of the current state of the process, confirm assumptions we have about how the process operates and gain an understanding of the whole process, instead of just pieces of the process.

In most instances, people are managed vertically while processes run horizontally. Process walks help see the whole process.

Rules to remember during a process walk

  • It's about the process, not the people

  • Be respectful to all parties involved

  • Be empathetic: process workers are the biggest victims of poor process design

  • Rank has no privilege

  • Finger-pointing has no place

  • Do not correct interviewees during the walk

  • It's ok and encouraged to disagree; it's not ok to be disagreeable.

Process walk considerations

  • Involve subject matter experts as well as some managers with authority

  • Meet with people in the process in advance, to build a high level overview of the process so that you determine who the attendees will be and the order of the interviews

  • Send out pre-communication to the different groups of participants (1. Process walker, 2. Stakeholders, and 3. individuals who will be interviewed)

  • Determine what measures to collect during the walk (refer to the Process Walk Data Sheet).

Walking the Process : Ask pertinent questions!

  • A Process Walk Interview Data Sheet should be introduced before the Process Walk during an orientation that includes the Process Walkers (interviewers) and interviewees.

  • Walk the process and complete a data sheet process walk for EACH process step.

  • Use the information collected to populate data on a Value Stream Map.

Download the walking process data sheet

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What takes place with the information gathered from Process Walk interviews?

The walkers will go into a room in order to:

  • Debrief the walk, observations, opportunities and waste

  • Build a current state map (like a Value Stream Map, but sometimes the team decides a Swimlane Map might be better)

  • Identify quick hits (1 or 2 people change that can be implemented immediately)

  • Identify short-term solutions

  • Design a Future State

  • Implement solutions through kaizen events or additional meetings with the team

  • Improve the process!

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