One of the most essential responsibilities of leaders is making sure that activities are driven by the strategic goals and objectives of the organization. Strategy deployment, also known as Hoshin Kanri or Policy Deployment is a technique for doing exactly that. The purpose is to ensure clear communications and consistent direction so that everyone is aligned and working toward the most critical breakthrough goals, often called True North. When successful, the strategy, day-to-day tactics, and operations are all in lockstep. The strategic deployment plan also serves as a feedback loop with key performance indicators coming from the bottom up.
Getting the most out of a strategy deployment plan requires preparation and active management. There are four critical stages to consider.
Stage 1 – Crafting the Strategy Deployment Plan
Before work begins on the strategy document itself, leaders need to agree on the long-term goals of the organization. In many cases, these are breakthrough objectives that can be achieved in the three to five-year time frame.
Some best practices when creating the plan include:
Less is more
The strategic plan shouldn’t be a long list of goals. Instead, it should have a tight focus on three to five important objectives. Every organization has limited bandwidth, so by selecting just the most critical goals, all of the energy can be trained on key targets. Organizations with a strong improvement culture and a structured improvement platform may be able to address more goals, but it makes sense to be very selective in the beginning. Keep in mind that deciding what not to do is as useful as determining what to do.
Consider both incremental and revolutionary goals
Your strategic objectives might be game-changing, revolutionary goals like releasing new products or entering new markets, or they might be more incremental such as goals related to profitability, customer satisfaction, or sustained growth. Either type is reasonable to include in your strategy deployment plan, or you might have a mix of both.
Seek broad input on the strategy deployment plan
Of course, ultimately the responsibility for the strategy rests on the shoulders of the leadership team. However, success is more easily achieved if there is an opportunity for middle managers and others to provide input and direction. An open conversation leads to useful information and different points of view, leading to an improved plan. People also become more invested in executing the plan when they have had a role in crafting it.
Put a process in place to measure progress
For each goal that you select, define the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that will be used to track the organization’s progress toward that goal. The use of these KPIs should be organization-wide so that everyone knows what will be measured for his or her department or team. The use of wall boards or other public displays goes a long way toward keeping everyone’s eye on the prize. Anything you can do to standardize measurement and reporting will help ensure that everyone stays aligned.
Stage 2 - Collaborate to establish the tactics
Once you have defined your True North, it is time to focus on the day-to-day activities that will get you there. In this phase, managers at every level should be involved in deciding what needs to happen at the ground level to achieve the goals outlined in the strategic plan. One favorite technique in this stage is called Catchball. Ideas are “tossed” back and forth between managers, employees, and executives for input and feedback before action is taken.
Of course, the tactics you define today may need to evolve as conditions change, so it is essential that each group within the organization have regular progress reviews, quarterly at least, during which the KPIs are discussed and tactical changes made when appropriate. Strategy deployment software makes this easier by giving you the ability to track your KPIs in real time.
Stage 3 – Implement the plan
Once the goals, KPIs, and tactics have been defined, your team can get to the serious work of adjusting the operational details and processes needed to implement the tactics. There are a bunch of improvement techniques that can be useful at this point, most critically the PDSA or DMAIC improvement cycle. Others include value stream mapping, the 5 Whys, and rapid improvement events, also known as Kaizen events.
This is another point at which you will want to consider improvement management software. While you might only have three to five objectives, achieving them will likely require many small projects that need to be tracked, managed, and documented across all levels of the organization. (Thinking of using a spreadsheet? Here’s why it’s not recommended.)
Stage 4 – Keep your hand on the wheel
Once the wheels are turning, it is essential that leaders pay close attention to the KPIs and alert to what is happening on the front-lines. New opportunities and challenges come up all of the time. Hopefully, they won’t require a change to True North, but they will almost certainly need tactical adjustments from time to time. With strategic planning, you are playing the long game, but it is not a driverless car.
Most organizations will tell you that they have a strategy and there probably is a document that sits somewhere and gets an annual visit, but far fewer can turn that strategy into action and results. That’s why the term “deployment” is so important. If you move through these four stages and stay tuned in at every level, your organization will proceed along the pathway toward success.