Hoshin kanri is fast becoming an integral part of the strategic planning process at many organizations. From decades of refinement, this methodology has emerged as extremely effective in creating strategic alignment and galvanizing an organization toward achieving its vision. When taken in combination with other planning tools, such as the balanced scorecard, business transformation architecture and extended value stream mapping, it provides the tactical roadmap needed to successfully grow your business.
As with any methodology on a rapid uptake, there are several common misconceptions that can slow acceptance. Let’s quickly discuss and dispel the three most common.
No. 1 Hoshin Planning Creates an Excessive Amount of Paperwork
When organizations first start learning about hoshin kanri, also known as hoshin planning or simply hoshin, they are confronted with a plethora of new terms and documentation. A3 reports, bowling charts, the X-matrix, action plans, countermeasure sheets and so on. It can seem overwhelming. Then the team realizes that many of these documents must be updated on a monthly basis and a full on mutiny erupts. “I already have a full-time job…when am I supposed to do all of this?”
As is often the case, the truth is much different than the early perception. Many of the documents produced in the development of the hoshin plan are only created at the beginning and then seldom updated throughout the year. This includes the actual X-matrix itself. Of the documents that are updated monthly, some, such as the bowling chart, require less than 20 metrics to be updated. Items like action plans require more attention but no more than would have been necessary utilizing any other planning process. The big difference is now all team members are privy to the information. Everyone can see the progress and has the potential to lend support. Teamwork is expected and, where more than one manager is working on a particular objective, they can coordinate their efforts. In the end, this should save time.
No. 2 Hoshin Planning Will Organize All of My Projects
Most organizations are not at a loss for things to do. There are always lots of ideas, projects, capital improvements, programs, business objectives and the like to be sorted through, prioritized, assigned, managed and then reported on. The thought is that if we just had a better way to manage all of this we can get more done and done more efficiently. Hoshin planning seems like the right ticket to make this happen -- but it isn’t. At least not the way you might think.
Hoshin planning is not a management-by-objective tool. It is not a system to organize all of the millions of changes that can course through your business. It is actually a “deselection” process. The goal is not to get better at ramming dozens of improvement teams through their paces but rather to get better at selecting the vital few breakthroughs and to stay brutally focused on getting just those accomplished. You have to create a culture that does not support managers adding in pet projects that do not connect with the overall business strategy or the typical scope creep that inevitability rears its ugly head.
No. 3 Hoshin Planning Is the Same as Strategy Creation
Strategic planning is the process of creating and implementing the tactics needed to make your vision and long-term strategy actually come to fruition. Strategic planning, for which hoshin planning is frequently used, is the bridge that connects your strategy with the execution side of your business. Many times we simply refer to this process by the Japanese word “hoshin,” which can be translated to “self-protection.” Therefore, the list of the three to four hoshins that represent the start of the strategic planning process are really the couple of business objectives that must be accomplished in order for us to protect ourselves.
The misconception is that these hoshins, or breakthrough objectives, are easily derived in just a few hours at the beginning of the strategic planning process. In truth, strategy creation work must precede the start of strategic planning. This work will yield many potential options that can be selected down to the final three to four that we will ultimately keep. The creation of learning plans, performance of environmental studies, ethnography, rapid innovation cycles and many more collaboration sessions are needed to inform and suss out those “self-protections” we need to apply our ruthless focus toward. This is the heart of strategy creation and should occur just prior to hoshin planning.
When applying any new methodology, misconceptions can get under the skin of your organization and derail an otherwise solid effort. Don’t let these misconceptions stand in your way of exploring this effective method for your strategic planning and execution.
With over 20 years of quality, operations management and performance excellence experience, William “Wes” Waldo is a frequent author, presenter and facilitator. In his current role as president, Americas, and COO of consulting firm BMGI, he enjoys facilitating and coaching senior leaders on how to align their strategy and teams for ultimate success.