Are you struggling to define the right path to follow for your company and its business to reach the expected goals? A Hoshin Kanri approach could be of great help!
As any lean tool, the Hoshin Kanri is not a recipe to be applied bluntly. Every company is different in terms of what it produces, how it does it, where it does it and by whom it is done. All these factors constitute a unique environment for lean questionings to better understand what the company as an entity must achieve to reach success and gain a striking competitive edge.
A company has, most of the time, a purpose. Nevertheless, how many employees embrace its core vision and work towards it?
The Northern Star
The Hoshin Kanri process always starts with a clarification of the company’s central objectives. This projection exercise, conducted by the executive committee with the support of a Lean coach, helps shaping the company’s competitive identity by describing a wished status for its goods or services in terms of customer satisfaction and quality. Another important aspect of this thinking process is the company’s contribution to society.
Time for Hansei
Once the Northern star has been outlined, take a step back and reflect on where the company stands currently in order to identify the gaps to be closed. Are the on-going projects aligned with the strategy expressed in the latest key notes? By answering this question, the top management assesses whether people are focusing on bringing value to the company’s vision or working on non-priority projects. Many companies claim they don’t have enough time to deliver projects and such an evaluation is a worthwhile starting point to free capacity and converge the energy on customer-centric realisations.
Another aspect that must be considered in the improvement equation is customer satisfaction. Without understanding what your customer thinks about your company, the imagined changes to the business will only bring a fraction of the expected value.
Knowing the destination and what can be improved only represents half the journey. A plan without actions merely reflects intentions. A Hoshin Kanri event brings to light several deviations that will need to be tackled by the entire organisation. The executive committee must decide a series of actions to be carried out days after the workshop to address the top issues and involve middle managers and teams.
Challenging top managers on their company’s vision as I am doing right now with some other colleagues at Operae Partners, could seem at first an easy step, but anyone entering that process will discover that very basic questions like: “how do we follow and challenge customer satisfaction, security, quality, delay, efficiency or people involvement?” can deeply perplex a whole group.
A Hoshin Kanri initiative brings the field back to managers who have long since been drawn in office-meeting-marathons. Based on what has been discovered, the Hoshin should trigger field visits (Gemba) to observe how the current vision or strategy is broken down operationally, and challenge the situations with respect and empathy. Such a managerial change can be reached through the setting up of an Obeya, a visual management, allowing to raise target- oriented questions and to take the right decisions to support managers and team leaders in the implementation of the vision.
A Hoshin-Kanri sets the course for a long journey with the advantage that everybody, at management level, is focused on the same destination, understands how to reach it, and accepts to meet regularly to stay on track.