Most lean practitioners would agree that the Japanese word gemba means “the real place” and refers to the exact place that work happens. While we whole-heartedly agree, we also believe that more influences the gemba than just the work processed at a specific location.

The most important part of going to the gemba includes directly observing the process and how people are interacting with it. This important relationship between process and people is experience, or that somewhat intangible perception of the environment where the work is happening.

Mapping activities typically focus on the process or workflow entities follow as they move through a system (we even did it this way at first). There are fleeting mentions of noise levels and perceived cleanliness, but those evanescent notions don’t typically appear on a process map. It’s this experience at the gemba that we want to capture in addition to the discrete, tangible process steps.


To achieve this higher level of information on our maps, we orchestrate an activity that fuses process mapping with experience mapping: Gemba Mapping.

A Gemba Map represents a complex operating system, illustrating both quantitative and qualitative attributes. At its core, a Gemba Map brings together the interaction between a system’s process and how customers experience that process. The act of Mapping allows a diverse group of stakeholders to quickly unify their understanding and align around goals and requirements for the future state.

Current_Future_State.jpgSimilar to process mapping, the goal of Gemba Mapping is to gain consensus around the current state and work together to develop an improved future state. Including the customers’ experiences of the process allows for a deeper understanding of these moments in time, leading to a more focused mapping activity.

Just as accomplished facilitators use certain prompts to draw out information about the process, we utilize specific keywords to extract information about customer experience related to each step in the process. These experience prompts include topics such as acoustics, wayfinding, privacy, cleanliness and comfort.

Array’s Gemba Mapping technique includes capturing the process and related problems, both experience and process, on the current state map. Experience problems are noted on the map just as a problem burst would be. There are also positive elements of the current experience which the team would like to keep in the future. These pieces of experience-related information are recorded using the future state transformation experience note color.

To help our facilitators while they create Gemba Maps with our clients, Array includes a small list of the top experience prompts in the Lean Facilitator Toolkit. This ensures that all of our Gemba Mapping activities cover the same standard types of information.

Gemba Mapping results in a deep understanding of current state operations, interactions and barriers to optimal processes and experience. The current state Gemba Map acts as a springboard to re-imagine the future state, where clients idealize process and experience. Transformation is prompted through consensus-driven “transformation bursts,” which are actionable improvements assigned to a responsible party and given a due date. Gemba Mapping lays the groundwork for successfully merging goals, objectives and aspirations in service to a wholly successful project.