What does Gemba mean?

According to Deming disciple Peter R. Scholtes, author of The Team Handbook and The Leader's Handbook, the word Gemba has been adopted by Japanese systems theorists from two Chinese words. Gem refers to specific work and Ba to the place. Quality should always  be defined in terms of value to the customer. To Scholtes Gemba is "...the critical resources and sequence of interdependent activities that add value to the customer." A behavioral health delivery system consists of many systems and processes and many, many work flows, but not all are Gemba. Those systems and processes directly related to the flow of work that adds value to the customer is Gemba. For example, those processes that serve the patient directly, such as a therapy session, a medication session or arranging a special consultation would be Gemba. Setting up and appointment for a patient would be Gemba. Resources are required for Gemba. Facilities, telephones, records must be provided. Any organization concerned about quality must identify and support Gemba. The most important role of management is to support Gemba. The customer (the patient) defines the activities that are most important and the wise manager sets priorities accordingly. Scholtes puts it this way: "The Gemba's measure of success is customer delight. The success of the rest of the organization is how well it  serves the Gemba."


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