“Hey there everybody! Can you do this, pat your head and rub your tummy? Try it. Pat on top and rub your tummy in a circle like this.” So begins Ernie’s attempt to teach Bert the mental dexterity challenge that we all faced during recess on a playground somewhere. Most of us eventually master this skill, but it is difficult at first because it requires using both the left and right side of your brain in close coordination. You must do two very different things at the same time. This concept is central to the practice of Hoshin Kanri.
What is Hoshin Kanri?
Hoshin Kanri, translated as “strategy deployment” or “direction management,” originated in Japan and is used by Toyota and other large companies as an approach to organizational alignment and planning. Hoshin Kanri steers an organization toward long-term strategic objectives, while at the same time maintaining and improving key business processes and results through systematic planning. Unlike other planning methods that focus only on defining and achieving long term goals, immediate, incremental improvement, and tactical responses to today’s challenges are built into the Hoshin model.
Agile, but not distracted
Think about driving your car. Your aim is to get to a particular destination at a particular time. Do you just point your car in that direction and hope for the best? Of course not. You keep your eyes on the road and respond to unexpected obstacles. If there is a traffic jam, you recalculate your route, but still find a way to get where you intended to go. In Hoshin Kanri the “destination” is the organization’s two to three-year strategic plan. Clarity around the specific goals and objectives gives each “driver” the information they need to respond to daily concerns while staying on a course that will reach the finish line.
In other words, rubbing your tummy, doesn’t mean you can quit patting your head.
The Bert and Ernie video is cute, but Bert has a line that really distills the purpose of Hoshin Kanri. Once he finally gets the hang of the tummy/head thing, he shouts, “I’ve got control!” Control is exactly what every business leader truly wants, and Hoshin Kanri is one way to get it.