The Pope does Gemba Walk

As many of you know Pope Frances visited Brazil back in 2013; his trip was hailed as “triumphant”. Part of his trip he visited “Varginha favela” in northern Rio de Janeiro. Brazilians called this part of Rio the Gaza Strip, due to the poverty and drug violence. Why would the Pope go there? No bishops, cardinals, or posh churches; only slums, poverty and small, run down churches.

Gemba: Japanese word meaning the place of actual work. We (Lean Six Sigma folks) stress the importance of going to the Gemba. It is essential when data gathering or problem solving. “Go to the Gemba” is part of every problem solving or Lean event – without it we are guessing.

Back to Pope Frances; he knows the importance of the Gemba as well. I imagine the churches and government buildings Pope Frances visited in Rio were diligently cleaned, scrubbed and undesirable items/people were conveniently hidden from the Pope’s vision. This is not Gemba…Varginha Favela is the pope’s Gemba (given his mission, vision, priorities and customers). Bottom Line: The pope did a Gemba walk and it was triumphant.

So the question for you is: when you visit work places do you see the Gemba or something artificial, specially created for your visit? If you suspect the Gemba is being hidden from you; the best strategy is regular (daily) Gemba walks. The companies who are most successful developing a culture of continuous improvement expect their managers/supervisors to be in the Gemba most of their work day. If you are always there, people won’t be tempted to “clean for the boss”.

See you in the Gemba!