Many years back, when I had the accountability of leading several healthcare teams, I worked to maintain a standard calendar that put me in gemba one day per week. There were, however, months when my compliance to this weekly standard was variable, for lots of reasons, all of which I could comfortably rationalize.
When I did get back to gemba, I’d find that the teams had just recently updated their visual boards or had just completed a PDSA on a nagging issue. When I reflected out loud that it seemed like they were not doing improvement work until just before I arrived, one of the managers looked me straight in the eyes and stated in front of the entire team: “Karl, if you want to see improvement, then you need to show up.” To this day, that one is still ringing in my ears and I continue thank her for it.
I’m not saying that front line teams are not capable of doing process improvements, PDSA’s, etc. on their own but it sure helps when someone is consistently checking, coaching, teaching and asking about their thinking and expertise in improving our healthcare processes. When they know you are coming and that you are going to ask those pesky inquiring questions, teams tend to want to show you what’s working and what isn’t’ working.
The more we “show up” in gemba, the more the teams practice, learn and develop their habits of continuous improvement. The more we “show up”, the more we learn about the reality of our operations; the good, the bad and the ugly of our healthcare processes.
We really do need to keep “showing up”…