There are several posts about how the Gemba walk is not necessarily suited to Software Development1 and is not enough when identifying areas of improvement in software development2. Based on my experience I agree.
Executives or managers walking the floor in a software development environment are not going to get the same benefit as they would if the were walking the floor in a factory. In a physical factory you can at least see things happening and moving. In the software development environment you are going to see a bunch of people sitting at desks, having stand up discussions around white boards or a bunch of stickies on a whiteboard. Not very insightful.
Before going any further, what is the Gemba. In business the Gemba is the place where value is created. And the Gemba Walk is the act of going to see the process, understand the work and ask questions3.
I want to argue the importance of actually having leaders with influence and credibility in the Gemba. On the frontline so to speak. If a developer becomes a manager, or architect for that matter, and they do not continue developing code that is released to production, I feel they become less effective over the years. That is my experience. I was a developer, who became a systems analyst, solution architect and then development manager. I was tinkering all the time with various technologies, but I found it became harder and harder to make decisions as I became less hands on in developing production code.
As a result I believe that if you are not actively within the Gemba it becomes difficult to properly understand the abstract non tangible world of software development. And you start to communicate in generalisations and not concrete examples. Therefore organisations must value leaders in development roles, in the product teams, who are actively coding. These are the people who can create the space for experimentation with techniques and practices to improve the development craft. Therefore eliminating waste and adding more value to clients.
- The Traditional Gemba Walk Has Low Value in Software Engineering – available at http://zsoltfabok.com/blog/2013/06/gemba-walk-has-low-value/
- Gemba Walk is Not Enough – available at http://brodzinski.com/2013/01/gemba-walk-not-enough.html
- Gemba – available at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gemba