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Gemba walks help facilities improve safety

Two USPS employees
Petr Dzurec joins Gardnerville, NV, Postmaster Doreen Hyatt on a recent gemba walk.

Want to improve safety in your workplace? Take a gemba walk.

This Japanese leadership technique allows managers to move throughout a workroom to “go and see” employees and identify opportunities for improvement.

The approach is part of Lean Six Sigma, a quality improvement process embraced by USPS.

“Gemba walks help us to identify safety hazards, review our standard work and promote engaging conversations between employees and managers,” said Linda Richmond, Western Area’s master black belt, a designation given to Lean Six Sigma experts.

In Gardnerville, NV, Postmaster Doreen Hyatt conducts daily gemba walks, looking for things out of the ordinary, such as loose straps or stray equipment.

“It’s amazing how we overlook simple hazards. The gemba walk helps us open our eyes to everything,” she said.

Hyatt also takes a different employee with her on each walk.

“That way we are all invested,” she said.

Homewood, CA, Postmaster Wes Sirotek combines gemba walks with kamishibai boards — a visual management tool — to improve workplace safety.

The boards use different colors to measure safety-related tasks. Red means an activity didn’t happen, while green indicates a task was completed.

“It keeps people aware and gives us a starting point to start talking,” Sirotek said.

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