Why It Makes Sense (Sometimes) to Start With Hoshin Kanri | Dan Markovitz | IndustryWeek

“Strategy deployment is a powerful way to get the leadership team involved in the lean journey.For a long time, I’ve been dismissive of organizations that want to start their lean journeys with hoshin kanri, (also known as strategy deployment). When you’ve got a company where people are not engaged (at best) or suspicious of management (at worst), it seems to me that getting people involved in everyday improvement to make their jobs easier is a better place to start.[…] Until now. Recently, my colleague and friend Katie Anderson pointed out something I’ve completely missed: that strategy deployment is a powerful way to get the leadership team involved in the lean journey.”

Sourced through IndustryWeek

Michel Baudin‘s comments: As I have great respect for both Dan Markovitz and Katie Anderson, I have to paraphrase Judge Haller from My Cousin Vinny, “That is a lucid, intelligent, well thought-out argument… Overruled.”

The flaw I see in Dan’s argument is that it only addresses employee engagement, which isn’t the only reason to start with local, tactical shop-floor projects with both technical and managerial content. In an organization that is just starting on its journey, the successful initial projects are most commonly setup time reduction or cell conversion of a process segment. Besides engaging employees, they also produce tangible improvements, develop technical and managerial skills, and let leaders emerge.

After a number of these projects, these leaders start making comments like “This is all great stuff but where does it lead us?” This is the sign that they are ready for Hoshin Planning and that it is necessary. If you don’t start Hoshin Planning at this point, you veer towards a “popcorn implementation,” with point kaizens popping out without an overall direction.

Skipping the projects and going straight to Hoshin Planning, on the other hand, is tantamount to conducting an orchestra with musicians who can’t play their instruments. Organization members can join the Hoshin Planning process with the best intentions but they have no ownership in the tools, they don’t know where they are applicable, what good they can do, or what it takes to implement them.

I have found the best English-language introduction to it to be Pascal Dennis’s Getting the Right Things Done, which I have translated into French as Déployez Vos Stratégies Lean.

6 comments on “Why It Makes Sense (Sometimes) to Start With Hoshin Kanri | Dan Markovitz | IndustryWeek

  1. I don’t see the two as being mutually exclusive. We advocate improvement on priorities that tie to the Hoshin Plan, which in turn is intended to further overall business strategy. This helps to avoid “drive-by lean activities” without purpose.

  2. Michel,

    I see the flaw as NOT implementing HK type planning from the get-go. HK planning in its most mature form is a powerful tool, however, not one company I have even worked with was able to do the whole ball of wax at day one, although some tried. I find that HK planning touches so much of the manufacturing world and touches it deeply and effectively that it is better to use it at the get-go. I, however, do not implement the entire system, just what they are capable to effectively learn and use 9and then they can practice their way to greater competence). We are guided, in how much we can implement by what I call The Initiative Mantra:
    Start where you are
    Use what you have and
    Do what you can

    Almost always (as compared to MBO systems for example) we can implement catchball, and even if we implement little more, without exception, we will see a major improvement in focus, alignment, and true engagement… I have been doing this since the 80s when I was with Chevron and have never failed to improve the bottom line and the engagement as well.
    My advice is that since HK planning is so fundamentally sound it is better to do some rather than do none…and start at day one

  3. I’m with Lonnie and Edward on this one Michel. PD is an excellent way to get involvement from the C-suite and serves to get them out in front of their managers, using the terminology and hopefully, through guidance, understanding the what and why of the implementation. As Edward points out, not mutually exclusive from any work that is being done to solve existing problems.

    While I’d guess that you are after some “pull” from the leadership with your approach, I haven’t found it necessary. I’d rather they “push” their folks in the right direction, and usually all they really want is some guidance on what to do. PD (and coaching) provides them with a roadmap for just that.

  4. Thanks for the comments, guys. I agree that they’re not mutually exclusive. HK doesn’t have to be done the first time to the level and extent that a more mature company does it. Catchball at just one or two levels is a great start. And the value of getting senior leadership involved at the start is, I think, incalculable.

  5. Michel –

    My comments to Dan (over ramen in SF) were not intended as an either/or of starting with front line improvements or strategy deployment (SD), but rather not to skip one in favor of the other. I agree that many organizations often start “bottoms up” with front line improvement, but if the leadership team is not quickly engaged then “lean” can be seen is something “everyone else” does, but not the senior leaders.

    I stand by my comment that strategy deployment is a powerful way to get the leadership team involved in a lean transformation.

    I see SD as an important process of engaging senior leaders in lean thinking and behaviors at the level of system in which they have the most skin in the game. SD not only helps leaders set the direction for the organization, and thus the direction for major improvement work, but it also provides a structure for leaders to practice problem solving (A3) thinking, lean leadership skill such as asking effective questions, active listening, and “nemawashi”. It usually takes many annual cycles of SD practice to really get more clarity on strategy and more effective deployment (and conversations up & down the org).

    Engage the leadership as soon as possible in SD to set the direction and practice the essential skills they need to really create a lean culture. In some cases, it may mean starting with SD or in other cases quickly following front line improvement efforts. But without engaging leadership in applying lean thinking and practices at their level, a lean transformation is impossible.

    I’m a huge proponent of Pascal Denis’ book “Getting the Right Things Done” and is the model I practice with clients.

  6. I think everybody here agrees that what Katie calls “front line improvements” and “strategy deployment” — also known as shop floor Kaizen and Hoshin Planning — are both necessary. The only question is which comes first, and it is not a trivial matter. In chess or go, the way you sequence your moves determines whether you win or lose, and the same is true in the game of manufacturing improvement.

    Yes, Strategy Deployment/Hoshin Planning is an effective way to engage the leadership but success is not only a question of engagement but one of skills as well. In choosing your moves at a given time, you have to consider what the organization members can do at that time.

    To be successful, the team that implements a cell on the shop floor must include production operators. What specifically can they contribute? A machinist who has worked for 15 years on the same machine can help redesign this machine’s operator workstation. Two years later, after working in cells and becoming multi-skilled, the same machinist has ideas to improve the flow of materials and the movements of operators through a cell.

    You have to ask the same questions about the management team, whose baggage may include four decades of Management-By-Objectives (MBO), with individuals rated quarterly based on quantitative goals in terms of dubious metrics and handed down from above. I know this isn’t what MBO is theoretically supposed to be but it is what its practice looks like.

    The management team’s baggage is also likely to include the belief that production operations have already been “optimized,” and that not much is to be gained from attempting to improve them. You find statements to that effect in business school teaching materials, and MBAs in business infused with this ideology.

    What happens when the first thing you do is introduce Hoshin Planning in such a context? The most likely response is to slap the “Hoshin” label on their MBO procedure and continue business as usual.

    On the other hand, the implementation of Hoshin Planning will be more than vocabulary engineering if frontline improvements have challenged the management team’s assumptions about what is technically feasible, what the organization members are capable of, and how it affects the performance of the business.

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