skip to Main Content

How a Lean Six Sigma Gemba Walk Reduced My Baby's Tears and Improved Our Bedtime Routine -

One of the benefits of the current situation is being able to spend quality time with my new baby daughter Zelda. Unfortunately my lack of familiarity with her nighttime ritual was landing us in a pile of tears. My wife has (thankfully!) taken the lead on childcare, establishing routines and rules around the house. Since I’m not traveling like I used to, I am enjoying the family time—but sense an opportunity for improvement.

When I am home, my wife assigns me a common task for dads: the nighttime routine. Since my calls and meetings can go into the evenings, my wife still supports me and pitches in and covers me. Even when I am available, my wife sometimes volunteers to help me. I’ve convinced myself that this is her effort to spend quality time together and not based on her fear that I may forget a key step in the process. For the record, that one time my daughter spit up was not because I forgot to burp her. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

The Bedtime Ritual

Zelda’s nighttime routine is pretty straightforward. Start by heating the bathroom at 6:00 p.m. and then set up a bath. Bathe Zelda for 15 minutes beginning at 6:15. Dry and dress Zelda and then give her as much of a bottle as she’ll drink, and then burp her. Next, read her a story, more bottle, burp her again, wrap her in a swaddle, sing a lullaby and put her to bed.

If you happened to be a fly on the wall—or one of our neighbors—the screaming and crying you’d hear might convince you we were torturing our daughter. Still, thank heavens, Zelda happens to be a relatively good sleeper. No matter how much crying the bedtime routine induces, we stick to the process.

Zelda’s bedtime routine could definitely use improvement. After all, there’s got to be a way to get her to bed without a splitting headache, right?

New Tools and Forms That Could Help

As Chief Marketing and Strategic Planning Officer at Minitab, whenever we introduce a new product or feature, I get acquainted with it in order to help articulate the value proposition to customers and prospects. With the launch of Minitab Workspace™, with over 90 tools and forms, trying to get accustomed to all of them is challenging. Most of the tools and forms, like Process Maps, Value Stream Maps, SWOT Analysis Forms and even House of Quality, are familiar to me—but not all of them.

The Improvement Challenge: A Gemba Walk

One form that caught my eye was the Gemba Walk Interview Sheet. The purpose of a Gemba Walk is to observe, understand and ultimately improve processes. That’s it! I had the perfect opportunity to try this tool at home.

Time to Go to the Gemba

I had to tread lightly. My wife established the routine and in the past, any questioning of Zelda’s routines has led anywhere from unpleasant discussions and reminders about my extensive traveling to me ending up in the doghouse for a few days. Telling my wife I’d like to a) have her handle the bedtime routine herself while I b) questioned her every step of the way, could potentially be a disaster.

But now I had the perfect setup. I told my wife I had to write a blog for work (true!). I told her I needed to do a Gemba Walk and I recommended doing a Gemba Walk of the nighttime routine (a slight exaggeration. To my lovely wife: if you’re reading this, I love you 😊).

Process Walk -

A Little Background on the Gemba Walk

The concepts behind Gemba were first developed in Japan. The word Gemba means “the actual place” in Japanese, and is used in a variety of situations. The police often call a crime scene the Gemba, and news reporters may say they are “checking in live from the Gemba.” When it comes to workplace improvement, Gemba is the place where work is actually done.

The history of Gemba in the context of the workplace is commonly associated with other workplace improvement strategies such as Kaizen, Lean and Six Sigma. The Gemba Walk is an opportunity for staff to stand back from their day-to-day tasks to walk the workplace floor to identify wasteful activities and opportunities for improvement.

For someone like me who is no expert in Gemba Walks, the Minitab Workspace Gemba Walk Interview Sheet was a perfect place to start. For those with more business-oriented challenges, the worksheet comes with standard questions to help (see below).

My Gemba Walk

For Zelda’s routine, I thought it was important to alter the questions a bit. Below is the Nighttime Routine Gemba Walk:

Interview Questions

Question Answer Notes
What are we trying to accomplish? Putting Zelda to sleep. My wife rolls her eyes at me as I begin my Gemba Walk interview.
What measures are in place to assess our performance? Getting Zelda to sleep and having her sleep through the night. At this point, my wife notes that if “you mess with the routine to make it easier for you, and the baby wakes up, you’re going to be the one dealing with it.” I weigh the prospect of having less screaming and crying versus running the risk of not only Zelda waking up, but being in the doghouse with my wife. I’m beginning to realize the importance of tone in these interviews. It can be a fine line between a question that sounds sincere and one that sounds patronizing. It’s critical to come into these interviews with the right mindset.
What is our performance as compared to the standard? Zelda has been sleeping well, so that’s good. The nighttime routine could definitely be more painless. My wife is finally opening up to make improvements. I’m seeing that one of the benefits of a Gemba Walk interview is that the people performing the actual work feel heard. Without their expertise and experience, it is much more difficult to make improvements.
What kind of problems are you running into here? Zelda starts crying at the end of her bath and keeps crying until her first bottle. Then, as a result of crying, she sucks in air and gets gas. This makes burping her more difficult and extends the nighttime routine. It also extends the screaming and crying. Perhaps by starting the bath sooner or doing it quicker, we might be able to get Zelda the bottle quicker. This could potentially prevent crying and get her to bed before she gets too excited?
What factors slow the process down? Reading a book and a lullaby. At this point, my wife notes that “reading to her is non-negotiable” and that “the lullaby soothes her, so abandon it at your own risk.” In my experience, music and/or the lullaby does soothe her. This, in my view, is not an area that needs improvement!
What can we do to improve the current condition? Get the bottle to her earlier. Maybe we cut the bath time? Maybe we start a bit earlier? She’s right. If I cut the bath time down she should get the bottle earlier. Maybe I can feed her before I even dress her?
What other questions would you have liked me to have asked? How about a Gemba Walk on how to make your wife’s life a little easier? Point taken.



My wife started off less than cooperative but began participating once we got going. I can see how that could happen in a work environment too. The good news is we came to the conclusion that getting Zelda the bottle quicker would make our life easier.

Potential Opportunities

There is an opportunity to feed Zelda quicker (before she gets super cranky) and still put her to bed at the same time, ensuring she sleeps through the night and we don’t throw off her schedule.

Solution Parking Lot

The solutions we came up with:

  • Cut down bath time
  • Eliminate bath time (some nights)
  • Give Zelda the bottle before we put her in her pajamas

Gemba Walk Reflections

As I noted in the interview sheet, the Gemba Walk was helpful and created an environment to discuss potential improvements.

A few weeks have elapsed since the Gemba Walk and I can report significant improvement in the nighttime routine. We continue to bathe Zelda every night, but for about five minutes, as opposed to 15. We dry her and feed her the first bottle in a towel and diaper.

We still read to her, but now we have more time to burp her and sing to her before she gets tired and starts screaming. She now goes to sleep at the same time, with similar good sleep patterns, but she goes to sleep calmer and doesn’t give her dad a headache every night.

Thank you Gemba Walk!

Are you stuck at home? Try a Gemba Walk of one of your tasks and send it to me at [email protected].

Josh Zable

Joshua Zable is the Chief Marketing and Strategic Planning Officer at Minitab, the market leading provider of software and solutions for data and statistical analysis and process improvement. Minitab has been helping organizations spot trends, solve problems, reduce costs and make their best data-driven decisions for the past 50 years.