Gemba Walk is good. Active Supervision Tours are better!

If you are interested in management methods that contribute to improving the performance of organizations, then Lean Management has probably already appeared on your radar. Gemba Walk, waste elimination, Just in Time, 5S… a number of practices based around this great concept are currently gaining popularity. And for good reason! They are flexible and aim at generating value for the organization, eliminating non value-added activities and encouraging continuous improvement, all with minimal investment (no CAPEX).

The Gemba Walk, for example, is one such practice that emerged from Toyotism and is being adopted by a growing number of organizations to help them understand the reality of their operations and optimize their processes, whether it is a production floor or administrative operations. However, Gemba Walk can (and should) be taken one step further to integrate the notion of leadership behaviors into the management of performance axes in what we call the “Active Supervision Tour.”


So what is Gemba Walk?


Let’s start at the beginning. Gemba Walk originated from an experience known as the Ohno Circle. Taiichi Ohno, the originator of the Toyota Production System, used to ask managers to stand in a chalk circle at the point of execution of the processes to be observed, and leave them there for an extended period of time to absorb the reality of the field in order to understand it better.

Couldn’t the same result be achieved by installing cameras or consulting reports, I hear you ask. The answer is actually no, not at all. What Ohno understood was that operations management is not a desk job – it takes place on the floor, with the teams.

And it is in this spirit that Gemba Walk elevates this observational practice into a more active mode. The supervisor is therefore responsible for monitoring the progress of production, informing employees of the objectives for the upcoming period, capturing performance gaps and taking the necessary action to resolve them.

Here are the 5 basic steps of a pretty standard Gemba Walk*:

  • Determine the critical areas and key steps in each process (where to go).
  • Determine an indicator for each key stage (what to check).
  • Carry out the tour:
    • For each workstation, validate the indicator identified for the process step
    • Ask the operators if they have any issues to report.
  • Note the actions to be taken to remedy the issues.
  • Follow up on the actions taken to solve the issue

*It should be noted that this is a semi-structured approach, which means that there is no single formula for Gemba Walk, but rather a multitude of variations inspired by the Toyota model.

Active Supervision Tours

The Gemba Walk technique was deployed at Toyota in the 1960s and became popular in North America between 1990 and 2000. Many of the companies across the range of industries that we have been lucky enough to work with over the past 15 years have successfully used the Gemba Walk method.

However, although the benefits of increased active supervision and well-established Lean Management practices are evident in these organizations, an critical dimension was missing. We have therefore evolved the Gemba Walk model to include human capital as a performance axis and helped hundreds of companies of all sizes to adopt active supervision tours that sustainably increase gains tenfold.


THE 4.0 APP FOR MANAGERS UTrakk DMeS Download the brochure


Putting people at the heart of the process

In order to integrate best human management practices into Gemba Walk and to master the active supervision tour, it is important to first define what is expected from a “good” floor tour: 

  • Format – The active supervision tour is a scheduled time at regular intervals during the work day. Employees know that their supervisor will visit them, for example, at 8:00 AM, 11:00 AM and 2:00 PM, and that these few minutes are reserved for them to touch base, ask questions as needed, and bring the supervisor’s attention to issues that are affecting their work and need resolution.  
  • Content – Each active supervision tour is an opportunity to strengthen the alignment of operations with the organization’s performance areas, priorities and values. Whether it is for the achievement of operational objectives (units produced, files processed or hours billed), compliance with health and safety standards, or the values of consideration and listening to employees, this moment allows all involved to experience this indispensable consistency in a concrete way.
  • Behavior – A supervisor must be much more than a person who monitors. By adopting an ambassadorial attitude and demeanor with an engaging state of mind, the active supervision tour becomes a privileged moment. By taking a real interest in people and asking for their opinions, and by involving them in the solutions, this moment becomes a rich point of contact, a pillar for driving not only performance but also the mobilization of teams.


While Gemba Walk offers a more active way of monitoring processes with Key Performance Indicators (KPI), it is possible to adopt the same discipline towards management quality through active supervision tours. The introduction of Key Behavior Indicators (KBI) contributes to the integration of the human factor into the performance axes of organizations and to the continuous improvement of management practices and skills.

Proximity management as a vector of commitment

Without a doubt, performance management is a field sport. And since it depends largely on human labor, it is logical to consider people’s commitment and well-being among the main performance axes of an organization. That is why it’s time to transform your Gemba Walk into an active supervision tour, a management ritual that puts people at the heart of performance.

By involving employees in exclusive, recurring and structured moments with their proximity managers, active supervision tours allow them to proactively discuss their activities and their impact on performance. And this practice has a major impact on employee and team engagement.  

This is especially important in the context of labor shortages; when employees know what is expected of them, are consulted on how to proceed, and know that the issues they put forward to the organization result in concrete action, commitment to the organization increases, and so does employee retention. 

Technological tools to structure your floor tours

To ensure that best management practices are adopted by managers, integrated into structured active supervision tours, and that their benefits are assured in the long term, it is essential to have the right tools. Long gone are the days of notepad and pen  Gemba Walks.

Although there are several platforms which digitalize Gemba Walk (such as Damasix, Shizen and Tervene), only UTrakk offers a set of tools that help managers improve in their role and put people at the heart of the organization performance management.

With a solution that stimulates collaboration, increases accountability and ensures alignment, Management 4.0 is at your fingertips.


Optimize and structure your active supervision tours with the UTrakk app, available for tablet and iPhone. A complete tool that puts technology at the service of better management behavior.


For successful integration and lasting benefits, Proaction International’s experts guide you through the configuration, implementation and adoption of UTrakk DMeS.

IMPROVE YOUR PRODUCTIVITY Go Beyond Lean Download the brochure

Yves Lebrasseur
Senior expert
Topics: Management Digitalization