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Everything You Want to Know about Hoshin Kanri, but Are Afraid to Ask

Posted by Maggie Millard

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Aug 15, 2016 7:00:00 AM

Afraid to askWhen I first started thinking and writing about all of the tools and techniques that organizations use to embrace continuous improvement and meet their strategic business goals, I had no idea there was so much to learn. If you are new to the arena of improvement, please don’t feel bad if you are a bit overwhelmed. The goal of this blog is to chip away at some of the confusion and help you find clarity.

One of the terms you may hear is Hoshin Kanri or Hoshin Planning. My first question when I heard the words used was, “Huh?” You probably have smarter questions than that. Let me take a minute to answer a few.


What is Hoshin Kanri?

Hoshin Kanri is a strategic planning method that strives to point organizations toward their “true north.” During the Hoshin planning process, leaders work with their teams to define the breakthrough objectives that the organization can achieve in a three to five-year timeline. This makes it possible to align the goals and objectives for every department, team, and person with the long-term aims of the organization.

What Does It Mean?

Hoshin is composed of two Chinese characters, “ho” and “shin.” “Ho” means method or form, and “shin” means compass or shiny needle. Kanri translates roughly to “management.” Together, they represent a method for strategic direction setting - a way to help the organization navigate the dark waters as it heads toward its new destination.

Why is It Used?

The Hoshin process has a number of important goals. When it is executed well, the entire organization is focused on several key strategic directions and goals, objectives are clearly communicated to everyone, each leader is involved and engaged in planning, and everyone is accountable for the success of the plan.

What is the Process?

The typical process involves 6 steps:

  • Define "true north" that will stay fairly consistent over time
  • Identify significant business issues that need to be solved over a 3 to 5-year timeline
  • Establish specific measurable objectives to resolve these issues
  • Define key performance indicators (KPIs) for every level of the organization
  • Develop strategies, projects, and tactics to support the achievement of these goals
  • Review progress on a monthly and annual basis

How is it Managed?

The best practice for managing Hoshin planning is Hoshin Kanri software. It is designed to align goals across the entire organization with the strategic objectives. It keeps the plan top of mind and makes it easy for leaders to identify employees who are contributing to success. Opportunities for improvement that are captured in the system can be evaluated based on their impact on the Hoshin plan.

Hoshin Kanri is an effective approach for organizations that want a systematic way of marching ever closer to the breakthroughs that will help change the game. Like many other continuous improvement techniques, it is powerful, but not terribly complex. When everyone is rowing in the same direction, amazing things can happen.

Download this free eBook to learn how to engage your employees in achieving your strategic goals: 


The Savvy's Leader's Guide to Employee Engagement



Topics: Hoshin Kanri

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