Hoshin Kanri is an essential Lean method for ensuring that the strategy of a company gets executed across the hierarchy. At first sight, it may look like a simple set of steps, which gives the impression that nothing can go wrong with its implementation.
However, there are quite a few pitfalls you may encounter and therefore sabotage yourself in achieving the results that Hoshin Kanri can actually deliver for your organization.
In the following paragraphs, you will be able to see 3 of the most common pitfalls that you must avoid if you want to make the most of the method.
1. Mistaking Hoshin Kanri for a Planning Tool
Yes, there is a lot of planning in Hoshin Kanri but it is far from what the method is all about.
In Lean management, Hoshin Kanri’s primary purpose is to serve as a communication tool for aligning the long-term strategy of your company with the actions of all people across the hierarchy.
The typical planning process is a top-down model and therefore the executive management formulates goals and objectives and puts them in a predefined time frame. As a result, middle management and regular team members must comply without providing any input often failing to deliver the desired results.
In Hoshin Kanri, planning is a two-way street. The executive suite needs to formulate long-term goals based on the current situation of the company and the problems that impede its further development.
They have to be in the time frame between 3 and 5 years and break them into annual objectives. Here is the most significant difference. In order to get the most of Hoshin Kanri, these goals need to be communicated across all levels of hierarchy and therefore agreed upon.
If the management just drops the objectives to the team, Hoshin Kanri will be just another way to plan work that may or may not be achievable according to plan. The team won’t have the opportunity to evaluate them and come up with the necessary tactics for achieving the objectives.
2. Rushing Through the Catchball Process
The Hoshin Kanri Catchball is the method’s primary tool for communicating strategy across every level of your organizational hierarchy. As the goals and strategic objectives are put for discussion by the executive management, every person who will be involved directly in achieving them needs to provide input.
Even regular team members who will be executing the day-to-day activities should be provided with the chance to evaluate the plan and give feedback on their part of the process. They may suggest tactics, voice their concerns about certain roadblocks that will impede the successful execution and ask as many questions as needed to achieve alignment between what management wants and the capabilities of the team.
The Hoshin Kanri Catchball is a time-taking process. Every person needs to have enough time to evaluate the information and come up with value-adding input.
A common mistake among adopters of Lean management is to rush the process and toss the ball mainly between the different levels of management providing little or no opportunity for regular team members to contribute. As a result, the organization is bound to achieve only part of the alignment that Hoshin Kanri can provide.
Therefore, even if the goals and objectives are well-communicated between the executive suite and middle management, but the tactics on the lower levels are not synced and agreed on, the execution will be far from efficient and you may have to revise the plan at some point.
3. Losing Focus Half-Way
Coming up with long-term strategy is difficult, sticking to it even more so. This is why it is important to have your goals and objectives visualized clearly. In Hoshin Kanri, the main tool for that purpose is the X matrix.
Inside, you need to list the long-term goals, break them down into annual objectives and list the top priorities in the short term. It is an official document that has to be revised every few months to see whether everything is proceeding according to plan.
However, it is a common mistake for a manager to go off course and start a “pet project” that is not linked to the goals of the company or wasn’t agreed on during the planning process. As a result, they relocate capacity from the projects with higher priority and lower the chance of achieving the long-term goals.
This is why it is of crucial importance to be very careful with all the steps of the Hoshin process and seek continuous improvement. Once you all agree on the long-term goals make sure that everybody follows them or your goals may take a lot more than 3-5 years.
Hoshin Kanri is one of the most flexible Lean methods. If you implement it in the proper way, you will be able to align your company’s strategy and actions. Avoiding these 3 common pitfalls will increase significantly your chances to establish a connection between planning and execution, and align work across all levels of hierarchy.
If you are not confident that you understand exactly how Hoshin Kanri works, learn about it here in our Lean Management online guide on Hoshin Kanri.