Workshop – where to ask Gemba members to come up with solutions to solve problems

Hello everyone, since last time, we went into “to-be (future state design)”. Now it’s time for problem solving.

Last time, I wrote that “the key for problem solving lies in Gemba”! In order to come up with solutions to solve problems, I recommended to involve the members of Gemba. “Involving” specifically means “asking people to come up with ideas for solving problems”, right?

This time, I would like to write about “Workshop” where to ask Gemba members to come up with solutions to solve problems.

1. What is “Workshop”?

“Workshops” are familiar to problem solvers in Lean Six Sigma community, but may not be familiar to other problem solvers unexpectedly.

It is thought to have originated from the “workout” that began in the days of Jack Welch (around the 1980s and 1990s) as chairman of GE in the United States. Workout is a method of removing the walls between organizational hierarchies and between organizations, gathering members related to problem solving, and trying to solve problems in an intensive discussion format. It’s “workout” because it “outs” excess “work”. I don’t know how this became a “workshop”, but I think “workshop” is more common now.

As for what to do in the intensive discussion, the flow is like identifying current processes issues (wastes) in the previously posted “VSM (value stream mapping)“, and deep dive those issues (wastes) by using “Fishbone analysis” and “5 whys” to identify the root cause and discuss solutions to the root cause.

Scope covered by Workshop
Fig1. Scope covered by Workshop

Originally, it spent 2-3 days, or even a whole week, involving people and conducting intensive discussions. However, if important members of Gemba are overtaken for that period of time, it will not be accepted by Gemba side. In the short term, it may be possible to do it as only one time event, but in the medium to long term, if it becomes established as a problem-solving method, I think it would be difficult even for one day.

Even now, there may be some cases where it takes that much time to do it, but I think that the time has generally been shortened. What I often see these days is not an intensive discussion, but rather a method of dividing it into phases and holding it for several weeks, one or two hours each week.

Another drawback of intensive discussion-type workshops is that the “sense of achieving big event” tends to come out very much by being involved for 2-3 days or 1 week. Then, when the workshop is over, participants would be satisfied by a sense of accomplishment (laugh), and they would tend to neglect the implementation of problem-solving afterward. In that sense, I agree with shortening time.

2. The way to proceed “Workshop”

Now, I will roughly describe how to proceed with actual workshop in the order of “workshop preparation” -> “workshop execution” -> “after the workshop”.

Workshop preparation

In the preparation stage, I will write about “contents”, “people-related”, and “logistics”.


This is the content of the workshop. Of course, it is necessary to clarify “what” the workshop is for. For that reason, “deciding the scope (what problem to solve?)” is important, isn’t it? Decide on the scope while using the “Pareto chart” and “SIPOC” that I posted before.

Next, define the agenda. Based on the scope, we need to decide on what method will be used, what kind of discussion will be held, and for how long?

Workshop Agenda (Example)
Fig2. Workshop Agenda (Example)

People related

Once the scope and agenda have been decided, consider who should be involved. You can also refer to the “Stakeholder Analysis” posted earlier.

Once you have decided who you would like to participate in, contact them directly and ask them to participate (in some cases, you may need approval from their managers). Once approved, we will set up the meeting. Recently, calendar tools such as Outlook and Google Calendar have widely spread, so I think it’s pretty easy here (although it may depend on the company).

Logistics for meeting

Logistics here means preparation for the meeting related to the facilities and equipment, not physical distribution. Below are the major items.

Meeting room

The size of the room depends on the number of participants. Please note that rather than sitting on a chair, the main discussion will be standing up, so choose a place where you can put away the desks and chairs.

Post-its, flip charts, etc. will be stuck on the wall, so the wall should be made of a material that allows them to be pasted. Recently, there are conference rooms with see-through glass, but I think it’s better not to use them. If you don’t have the right wall material, you can also use a whiteboard or easel pad.

If using external facilities (rental conference rooms, etc.), be sure to make arrangements for them!


Of course, we sometimes write directly on the flipchart, but rather post-its are stuck on the flipchart, and when one discussion completed, we save them somewhere along with the flipchart. This is the case when creating VSM, etc, but in the case of VSM, it is horizontally long. Flipcharts are often vertically long, so don’t forget to prepare mending tape so you can stick them horizontally!


If no flipcharts, this can be an alternative, but the problem is that you can’t peel it off and store it somewhere after you’re done with a discussion like you can with a flipchart. You can take a picture with your smartphone and save it, but if possible, a flip chart would be more convenient.

Also, as mentioned above, if you can’t stick post-its on the wall, you can also use this as a place to stick them instead.


When discussing with post-it (+flip chart, whiteboard), it is not necessary, but when discussing while directly typing on a computer (eg, using PowerPoint to create a business process, VSM, etc.), this is required.

Recently, it is possible to share screens using online meeting tools such as Zoom, Teams, and Google Meet. In those cases, the meaning of gathering face-to-face for workshops might be decreased (online workshops will be touched upon later).

Post-it and Marker pen

As I posted before, use larger post-it (about 75mm x 127mm). Multiple colors are better. The most commonly used colors are yellow, pink, and light blue. Especially when doing VSM, these colors have meanings, so be careful.

And the marker pens should be thick ones! If you don’t say anything, there will be some people who will use thin sign pen or ballpoint pen (laughs), but those will not be visible in the workshop. It’s a little more detailed, but let’s do a trial writing of the marker pens in advance. Be careful, especially with new products, as some may not come out unless you shake or press them for a while.

Sweets, drinks

When people get tired, they crave sugar, so if we prepare something including sugar, they would increase the members’ motivation:)

Workshop execution

The day of the workshop has come finally. Let’s all become facilitators and organize the discussion! (I would like to write about facilitation later in this blog.)

Depending on the agenda of the workshop, the members, the number of participants, etc., but if the participants are divided into subgroups for discussion, please make sure that facilitators are assigned for each subgroups.

The important thing on the day is “time management”. It’s quick and easy if you can manage your time while doing facilitation, but it’s also a good idea to ask someone to be your “time keeper”. If the facilitator emphasizes the time too much, it may make some participants feel uncomfortable, but if another “time keeper” would calmly say, “It’s almost time”! And it’s surprisingly easy to be like, “Oh, that’s right” (laughs). This kind of role-sharing is surprisingly important.

Another important thing is to “make Action plan and complete the workshop”. I think that various ideas for solving problems would come out, but ideas alone will not advance from there. Be sure to clarify “who will do what by when” and reach an agreement. For the “who” part, specify by name. It’s common to write the name of the department like “Sales”, but if you do that, people tend to think “someone will do that”, and nothing would happen. So let’s specify by name.

Action Plan (Image)
Fig3. Action Plan (Image)

After Workshop

After the workshop, we need to implement the action plan. From here, we will go into “Control” in Lean Six Sigma. I would like to write about “Control” later in this blog.

3. “Online” Workshop

Recently, due to the influence of COVID, online meetings have been rapidly established. We can’t afford to take a break from solving problems, so workshops are becoming more and more held online, right?

So far, I have written on the premise of face-to-face workshops where everyone gathers in one place. Finally, I would like to write some tips for online workshops.

The important thing about online workshops is to increase the level of engagement of the participants (the level of how enthusiastic they are involved in the discussion).

Facilitation (online)


This is the same for face-to-face, but be sure to include an ice breaker at the beginning so that all participants speak once. If there are members with whom you don’t have much contact, better to include roundtable introduction. There are also some games (I will write about ice breaker games later in this blog).

Continuous nominations

The online environment tends to become “quiet” when the facilitator throws something. If it’s face-to-face, someone would talk something by sensing the atmosphere, but online is often not the case. For that reason, if you feel a little “pause”, nominate more and more. To do so, it is convenient for the facilitator to keep the participant list at hand.

Take frequent breaks

When you’re online, participants’ concentration would be limited, and you can’t even serve sweets:) So try to take a break about once an hour.

Meeting logistics (online)


Turn on the camera as much as possible so that you can see each other’s faces. It will definitely increase your engagement level. Base on my experiences, Europeans/Americans have a culture of turning it on without hesitation relatively, but for some reason, many Asians, including Japanese, want to turn it off. But there is nothing we can do if we have any network issues..

Well, there seems to be various discussions about OnOff, and it may be difficult to force it, but recently it has become possible to change the background of each participant, so I recommend you to turn it on as much as possible.


Use headsets or earphones. Occasionally, I see people using the computer’s microphone directly, but the sound quality is not good and noise would be included. If you just don’t like headsets or earphones, prepare speakerphones for online meetings. Then you don’t have to be bothered by noise.

That’s all for this time, and I would like to continue from the next time onwards. Thank you for reading until the end.

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