In another chapter from the book of simple concepts that are difficult to implement comes the story of strategy deployment. Over the years, I have seen some great business plans that failed to deliver because of the inability to stay focused and drive them into the organization.
Hoshin kanri is a process focused on setting direction, developing plans, and managing implementation. Progress on the plan is continually reviewed to understand when adjustments are needed to achieve success.
There have been many books written about Hoshin Kanri that cover the subject in great depth. And since I could never adequately cover the topic in detail in a short blog post, I’ll try to hit on what I consider to be the high points of the process.
Hoshin & Drucker
Much of the hoshin process appears to be aligned with Peter Drucker’s method of strategy deployment. I have always considered the strength of Drucker’s approach to lie in his technique of continually asking a few simple questions to get people focused on what’s truly important.
What are we trying to achieve?
How are we doing?
What are we doing about it?
Hoshin Kanri follows a similar approach through the application of the Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) cycle to business planning. Deploying strategy requires an obsessive focus on the few high-level objectives that are critical to success. Utilizing Drucker’s simple questioning technique within a PDCA framework helps maintain focus by increasing understanding of the following:
PLAN: What are our objectives?
DO: What are our plans to meet objectives?
CHECK: How are we doing? Are our results meeting objectives?
ACT: What are we doing about it?
Another benefit of PDCA in strategy deployment is that it drives home the idea that business planning is not a once per year exercise. It is an ongoing process that needs continual reflection and adjustment to succeed. There is no “new” plan each year – there is only a new revision that has been adjusted to account for progress and changes in the environment.
The initiatives that are developed from the business plan also go through the PDCA process to assure they continue to progress. When doing the CHECK on each of the initiatives, the team should follow the general approach listed in the exhibit. By creating the initiatives, the team is predicting that completing them will result in meeting one or more business objectives. Because of this, it is important to review whether the initiative is progressing as planned and, if so, whether or not it is driving the desired results.
Although the Drucker questions appear simple, the answers can get fairly complex. The key is to provide enough time to reflect on the answers in order to keep people focused on objectives. The effectiveness of leadership, after all, lies in the ability to simplify complexity. Whether using Hoshin Kanri or some other method, it is critical to utilize some type of framework that enables this to occur.