Hoshin Kanri is a strategy deployment approach that is popular with organizations using the Lean or Six Sigma business methodology and others that commit to continuous improvement. The object is to define the organization’s “True North” and drive toward it, reaching breakthrough goals while still managing daily incremental improvement. When properly executed, organizations have used it to improve profitability, sustain growth, enter new markets, and deliver innovative new products to customers. (If you are not familiar with the approach, you can learn more about it in this post.)
As useful as Hoshin Kanri can be, it doesn’t always work. We’ve seen some organizations achieve great success and others give up in frustration.
While every organization is different, here are some of the common problems we see when Hoshin planning hits a dead end.
Front Line Employees Aren’t Involved in Strategy Deployment
Hoshin Kanri means “to show the way” in Japanese. It is not intended to be something that is developed by senior leaders and passed down as gospel. Instead, the whole organization gets involved in the strategic planning process. Hoshin management philosophy holds that every person is an expert in their job, making it critical to use this expertise when working on strategic deployment. Management defines True North, but the delegates as much responsibility to associates as possible.
Lack of Communication
Poor communication is the root cause of many, if not all, organizational problems. Unclear or infrequent communication during the Hoshin planning process can lead to poorly understood expectations, worsening performance, finger pointing, divisions between departments, arguments about ownership, and more. Successful strategy deployment requires more than just a company meeting to announce the plan. It must be presented in a way that is meaningful for employees and that gives them a sense of ownership. Transparency remains vital as the strategy moves into action.
The ability to adapt is essential to the success of Hoshin Kanri. Because long-term planning rests on information collected from the business system, the process of planning must also be agile and able to respond to changes in the system. Therefore, management of the business must include a frequent review that reveals whether or not the strategic plan is achieving its goals or whether it needs to be adjusted or changed. Without regular reviews of the plan and the application of the plan, management is not possible. Hoshin Kanri should be an enabling attribute in the organization’s journey toward continuous improvement.
Goals and Objectives are Not Aligned
Individual objectives and the strategic goals of the organization must be in lock-step to ensure that everyone is working toward the same ends. People perform their best when they feel connected to the missions of the organization. When they understand how their work will help achieve the breakthrough objectives, they become emotionally invested and more engaged. Aligned goals also help simplify decision making and reduce conflict.
You don’t have to have specialized software to use the Hoshin Kanri planning method, but it sure helps. Organizations that rely on email and spreadsheets for project management suffer for many reasons. While email is great for alerts and notifications, it does not create a reliable record of what happened during each improvement project. It has no way of capturing whether or not a particular objective was achieved, and it creates a patchwork of access to information. Spreadsheets are fine for compiling lists, but they are passive, easily corrupted, and not well suited for cross-functional collaboration.
Companies that excel at strategic planning know how important it is to long-term success and they invest in a software platform to support it.
If any of these challenges sound familiar, don’t despair. Many companies have faced similar obstacles. They can be overcome by taking an approach to Hoshin planning that involves every person in the organization, improving communication quality and frequency across the board, cascading goals from the top down to the individual and putting the right tools in place to achieve and measure results.