Jack Salzwedel

Take a Gemba walk.

That’s a leadership tip from Jack Salzwedel, chairman, president and CEO of American Family Insurance.

In a Dec. 1 LinkedIn blog posting, Salzwedel outlined what the word means and why he believes in it so much.

It turns out a Gemba walk is a term used to describe the personal observation of work as it happens. It’s based on the Japanese term Gemba, which means “the real place.” Salzwedel said he took a Gemba walk recently through American Family’s Personal Lines operations, Claims and Claims Legal teams at the insurer’s East Regional Building.

Each department he visited is working to improve processes and to reduce waste and costs, and he wrote in the blog posting that the Gemba walk was worthwhile.

“Gemba walks are about engaging with and developing people,” Salzwedel wrote. “They take leaders and decision-makers—at all levels—away from desks and meeting rooms and into the places where the work is being done.”

By taking a Gemba walk, an executive can get a better sense of a situation and be enabled “to coach employees to be more effective problem solvers and to make better, more informed decisions,” he said. In the posting, he also distinguished purposeful Gemba walks from “management by wandering around.”

For Salzwedel’s full LinkedIn posting, click here.

Topics Leadership