Do you want to increase sales in 2015? You have a few choices.

You can:

  • Deliver more or better product training
  • Enact more or better Sales Skills training
  • Hire more salespeople
  • Run Sales contests
  • Introduce more products
  • Increase prices

What if you’re already doing all of these things? Then what? Well, you just might want to go on a Gemba walk.

Gemba is Japanese word that comes from lean manufacturing and it refers to “the real place” or the “place of action.” Performing the Gemba walk is a key part of the Lean culture. If you want to improve something (sales results or call outcomes for instance) you need to first observe the actions that drive those results. You do that by going to the place of action or to the Gemba.

The goal of a Gemba walk is to observe the front lines so you can look for the best improvement ideas. In a way, Sales Managers are performing the Gemba walk whenever they do a ride-along. But a Gemba walk has to be done a specific way in order for it to be effective. Most ride-alongs can be classified more as “Management by Walking Around,” or “MBWA.” And there are distinct differences.

MBWA – e.g. sales ride-along Gemba Walk
Goal is to identify things that need to be fixed, usually involves finding fault Goal is to observe so you can understand the process
Unstructured Thoughtful and purposeful
Leave having found something to critique Leave having found a way to be helpful
Give explicit direction on how to do better Show respect and ask questions


There are 4 key requirements of a Gemba walk.

  1. Know your purpose
  2. Know your Gemba
  3. Observe the Framework
  4. Validate

Know your purpose

You should have one specific goal in mind before you begin your Gemba walk. Is it your goal to see how skillful the salesperson is? That’s the purpose of most ride-alongs. To determine skill level and then coach. A Gemba walk would position the purpose slightly differently, “I want to discover how to eliminate wasted effort (or MUDA) in a typical day’s worth of sales visits.”

Know your Gemba

There are many Gembas to observe when you do ride-alongs. The place where your salesperson prepares for the daily visits is a Gemba. The car is a Gemba. The technology the salesperson uses is a Gemba (it’s a place of action), and of course, the meeting location itself is a Gemba.

These are all unique points of activity. Are you observing all of them? Or are you simply observing the interaction between prospect and salesperson?

Observe the Framework

The Framework is about flow. Try to see past the surface and understand how each activity is connected. What’s the process, what’s the equipment, who are the people, where is the friction?


Look beyond what you can see or hear. Understand the thought-processes. Ask questions. When you make an observation, validate your conclusions with the person you’re observing.

If you take the same approach each year to improve results, don’t up the ante by doing more of the same. Up the ante by adding a new technique to your arsenal. Your purpose isn’t to increase revenue. Your purpose is to eliminate unneeded or wasted effort and to improve on the activities that directly add value and lead to revenue. Instead of going on a ride-along, tell your folks you’d like to go on a Gemba walk with them.

To learn more about Gemba and the Gemba Walk check out the many resources by the Lean Enterprise Institute.