From the CEO: Going to the gemba in a virtual world

AME | July 17, 2020


I may be one of the only people who has not seen Hamilton. I love theater and movies, but it’s never worked out to see the Tony Award-winning musical. I’ve also not heard the soundtrack, nor did I join the millions of people who streamed it when it recently became available. There’s just something about being in a theater seeing a performance and hearing it live. Ironically, I understand that one of the standout moments in Hamilton is when Aaron Burr sings about wanting “to be in the room where it happens.”

To understand everything that’s going on, to make informed decisions and to influence processes, those of us in the operational excellence community identify “the room where it happens” as the gemba – the place where value is created.

Things are changing in organizations. Social distancing, enhanced safety and cleaning, travel restrictions and a disbursed workforce have all become the norm. To see these new realities in action and identify the areas for improvement that have certainly emerged, it’s as important as ever to go to the gemba.

In an ideal world, you’re able to physically visit the gemba, but that’s not always possible today. Cellphones, tablets, and other mobile cameras have allowed virtual tours and visits to occur. Though it may be challenging, creativity and innovation can rule the day and allow you to continue your important visits to the gemba. I have even heard of one company that created standard work for how to attach an iPhone to a hardhat so that gemba walks may be livestreamed by a hands-free operator.

For our part, AME is grateful to companies like Cambridge Air Solutions, Rockwell Automation (7/24), Hansen Plastics (7/29-30) and Tayco (10/27-30 – part of the virtual AME International Conference) who are opening their doors to allow our members and guests to virtually tour and participate in workshops. Each of these visits is completely unique and provides our community with a deep dive into different examples of operational excellence in action.

Whether in your own organization or through an AME virtual tour, take advantage of technology to go to the gemba. Don’t miss the opportunity to get first-hand insights into what’s happening in the place where value is created, because we can only truly identify our challenges, successes and areas for continuous improvement in the room where it happens.

As always, please stay safe and keep looking out for one another.


P.S. The 2020 virtual AME International Conference early bird discount period ends in just two weeks! Register by July 31 to receive $150 off the already deeply discounted price.