Hoshin Kanri (sometimes called "strategy deployment") is an approach that helps companies achieve breakthrough goals over a three- to five-year time horizon.
The methodology is effective because it allows leaders to keep their eye on the long-term objectives that will change the game, without losing sight of the day-to-day improvements that can add up to significant benefits.
However, we won’t lie. Effective strategy deployment isn’t easy.
Too often, the strategic plan gets lip service, but little else. If you are looking for help making sure that your organization arrives at “True North,” an X-Matrix might help.
X-Matrices are visualization tool made up of five sections. The layout of the matrix helps define the relationships between each of them.
Breakthrough Objectives (Bottom Quadrant)
This section contains the key strategic goals that are to be achieved within the next three to five years. There shouldn’t be too many, but they are central to the future of the organization.
Annual Objectives (Left Quadrant)
Here’s where you’ll identify the shorter-term goals that are necessary to reach the breakthrough objectives. The design of the matrix lets you connect each annual goal to the breakthrough objective that it supports.
Annual Improvement Opportunities and Priorities (Top Quadrant)
In this area of the matrix-specific opportunities for improvement are listed. These opportunities are aligned with a yearly objective. This is one more step in cascading the breakthrough objectives down into immediately actionable items.
Metrics to Measure and Targets to Improve (Right Quadrant)
You’ve identified the goals and opportunities for improvement, now it is time to decide how success will be defined. The key performance indicators that give you insight into progress toward goals are listed in the right quadrant.
Teams and Ownership (Far Right Side)
Accountability and ownership are essential components of strategy deployment. The far-right side of the X-matrix is used to put a name to each metric, improvement project, and objective.
Although the design of an X-matrix is relatively straightforward, this visual approach to strategy deployment is potent. The X-matrix helps leaders:
Develop the Strategic Plan
The process of creating the X-matrix can be used to develop the strategy itself. Most leaders have a good idea of what the breakthrough goals ought to be, but the process of filling in the other sections of the tool can be very revealing. A well thought out X-matrix requires the involvement of multiple stakeholders, giving lots of people the opportunity to help determine how the team will navigate toward True North.
It is difficult to create an emotional connection with a goal that seems like it’s a long way off or too big of a hurdle to tackle. The Hoshin Kanri approach, when supported by an X-matrix, helps break down objectives into manageable parts that people can get to work on today. The measurement section gives people a way to see how incremental improvements payoff by addressing both short and long-term needs.
Bridge the Silos
Cross-functional collaboration isn’t easy, but it is necessary for solving the most challenging problems and eliminating roadblocks to success. By creating the X-matrix collaboratively and giving everyone the same view of success, leaders help improve communication and get every person, team, and department rowing in the same direction.
Get Early Warning
If the right steps aren’t taken now, the breakthrough goals become impossible to achieve. When operating based on an X-matrix, leaders have the insight necessary to recognize when forward progress has stalled and act quickly to restore momentum.
Set Priorities and Simplify Decision-Making
One of the biggest challenges in business is deciding how to use the available resources in the smartest way. What an X-matrix does is set the table for decision-making. Activities that align with any section of the matrix should generally be a higher priority than those that don’t. When questions arise about resource allocation, the X-matrix usually holds the answers.
The X-matrix isn’t the only tool that can be used to support strategy deployment and Hoshin Kanri. A3s and value stream maps are also very useful. But we think that X-matrices are important enough, that we’ve added the option to use them to our solution and wholeheartedly recommend the approach (using our tool, or not) to clients.