What can Japanese efficiency teach us about turning vision into action? How do we direct an organization to achieve more worthwhile goals?
You can be highly productive at the wrong things, and where will that bring you?
Hoshin Kanri is a step by step planning method used to ensure that the different functional areas of your company align with your organization’s overall vision. Translated from Japanese, Hoshin Kanri aptly means “compass management.” The individual words “hoshin” and “kanri” mean direction and administration, respectively.
Try using Hoshin Kanri as a lens through which you see your organization. Can you learn something from this method to make your strategy more effective?
Hoshin Kanri Summary
The vision of senior leadership acts as a compass to provide direction to keep everyone working together effectively. Hoshin Kanri is also a circular method, where goals rolled down from the top generate results that are fed back up the hierarchy so that strategy can be nimbly adjusted.
Hoshin Kanri Core Principles
- Visioned Strategic Planning – Clear priorities that guide decisions of where to place resources and what not to do
- Catch ball – Information that flows back and forth between all levels of the business
- Measured progress – Continuous review of actions and mid-goal achievements
- Close the loop – data needs to flow not just down the organizational tiers but back up again in a loop
Are all the gears moving in the right direction?
Organizations act like a machine, built of cogs, gears and axels that must work together. If any of these parts are out of sync, the whole machine can break down. We build organizations to have many processes in different functional areas. If a functional area becomes distracted from the strategy by working towards a different goal than the others, gears become jammed. We then waste money, time, and resources. Although functional areas may achieve something, the organization could be pushed further from its vision.
Enter Hoshin Kanri, a method that gives employees and management direction on how to work towards their own goals and align them with the organization’s vision.
We can simplify an organization into senior management, mid-management, and implementation teams. Senior management decides the organization’s goals and strategies. Mid-management, departmental heads, or managers, are in charge of functional areas and organize resources. Front line teams are the employees that activate the strategies and resources provided by upper management. Using Hoshin Kanri, senior management can create a strategic plan to further the company vision while also addressing issues like lean processes, quality control and customer responsiveness. This plan should include tactics discussed with mid-management necessary to achieve goals successfully.
Once senior management creates a strategy, it is passed down to mid-management to develop a step-by-step action plan. Managers then have the responsibility to work with their front line tactical teams to decide on how best they can contribute to the organization’s priorities. Managers and supervisors ensure all employees are engaged in the organizational vision, keeping them committed and aligned with the group’s purpose.
An essential part of the Hoshin Kanri method is the ‘catch ball’ step – where information is passed up and down, back and forth, with senior management to ensure that the front line tactics and mid-management results continue to stay aligned with the organizational vision.
Known as ‘Plan, Do, Check, Act,’ this process allows for flexibility and adaptability in the tactics deployed. The aim is always to improve the processes and reduce waste. Overall, Hoshin Kanri benefits us by aligning every member of our organization with a shared vision. This alignment prevents wasted time, money, and resources while also improving the effectiveness and efficiency of company processes. The continuous use of Hoshin Kanri within a business can contribute to a culture that continually reinforces sustainable leanness within the company, rather than short-term action plans that come and go.
Seven steps of Hoshin Kanri:
Step 1. Establish Organizational Vision
Step 2. Develop Breakthrough Objectives
Step 3. Develop Annual Objectives
Step 4. Deploy Annual Objectives
Step 5. Implement Annual Objectives
Step 6. Monthly Review
Step 7. Annual Review
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Adam Kreek is on a mission to positively impact organizational cultures and leaders who make things happen.
Kreek is an Executive Business Coach who lives in the Pacific Northwest. He is an Olympic Gold Medalist, a storied adventurer and a father.
He authored the bestselling business book, The Responsibility Ethic: 12 Strategies Exceptional People Use to Do the Work and Make Success Happen.
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