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Hurrah for Hoshin

by Mark P. McDonald  |  October 8, 2019  |  Comments Off on Hurrah for Hoshin

Today’s Wall Street Journal article on Larry Culp and his plans to fix GE included this “Now Mr. Culp has begun rolling out Hoshin Kanri, a Japanese strategic planning process that is part of lean manufacturing.  Hoshin Kanri holds that all workers should understand the company’s strategy and how their role can contribute to it, enabling feedback and improvement to come up from lower levels.”

It is about time.  I learned Hoshin Kanri a long time ago and have tried to implement it, in various forms, with teams and groups ever since.  With a few minor changes in emphasis, Hoshin Kanri is ideally suited for today’s agile, digital and dynamic environment.

Traditional Hoshin Kanri comes to life in a series of planning matrices that enable detailed discussion of goals and the means to achieve them.  Executives tend to see this level of detailed planning as onerous and too fragile in the face of changing times.  However, evolve that focus to raise of the levels of the matrices toward objectives, customers and outcomes and you get a practicable approach.

The catch ball, a term used to describe the interactions up and down the organization over targets, how to achieve them and adjusting targets is another aspect of this approach that is ideally suited for setting strategy in a digital world.  Too often strategy is set, center out and top down.  This creates disillusionment, low levels of engagement and tension between the people setting the goals and the people accountable for delivering them.  Effective use of the ‘catch ball’ creates shared responsibility and accountability at all levels of the organization.

Hurrah for Hoshin and its potential return

Current approaches to corporate, product and just about any other strategy have been proven ill-suited for a dynamic and changing world.   To date the answer has been “be agile”, which is incomplete and too often leads to enterprise attention deficit disorder.  Top down approaches appear to be too fragile and inflexible to support competitive realities.  Likewise, letting Business units go about their own way denies scale, increases complexity and costs.

The need is for an approach that has the technical/financial rigor of a top down strategy with the social adaptability and engagement of design thinking.  Hoshin Kanri is not THE answer, but its approaches and ideas can be tailored to create a practicable approach that goes beyond its TQM and Lean origins.

Resources to learn more

Resources regarding Hoshin are limited and often related to the quality movement.  If you are looking to get up to speed on Hoshin Kanri, here are few resources and comments that I have found helpful.

QFD Institute is a website dedicated to Quality Function Deployment, part of the TQM tool kit.  The team there knows Hoshin as well and would be worth your consideration.

Hoshin Kanri, Policy Deployment for Successful TQM, Yoji Akao editor – the book has been updated in 2004.  It is a good translation of the original work done in Japan.  It’s a little dry and requires a more than passing understanding of Total Quality Management.  But it is one of the first books on the subject and one I learned from.

There are other books on Amazon on the topic that I have not read so I cannot say.

Additional Resources

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Category: corporate-strategy-formulation  leadership  lean-thinking  management  strategic-planning  strategy  strategy-function-leadership  

Mark McDonald, Ph.D., is a Vice President and Fellow Emeritus in Gartner for General Managers Program.






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