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Jeff Liker

Jeff Liker: hoshin kanri links the kaizen activities of leaders and work groups at all levels so they are working toward common goals

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Saturday, April 27, 2013 - Save & Share - Leave a comment

In “The Toyota Way to Lean Leadership” we have a 4 step model of leadership development.   We place Hoshin Kanri fourth, after self development, developing others, supporting daily kaizen, and finally hoshin kanri.  What hoshin kanri can do is link together the kaizen activities of leaders and work groups at all levels so they are working toward common goals.   In a sport, for example, basketball, a game plan can do that.   But imagine the perfect game plan with a bunch of novice players going up against professionals.  It will be a blow out.  The novices do not have a chance because they do not have the understanding and skills to execute the game plan.

 

Now in Hoshin Kanri it is even more complex, because the players themselves are making up the game plan.  So novices not only lack the skills to execute, but lack the knowledge and experience to develop a good plan.  Low skilled people executing a bad plan–now there is a recipe for excellence!

 

The Western equivalent of hoshin kanri is management by objectives (MBO).  In this case senior leaders decide what they want in terms of improvement and performance on key performance indicators and they pray to their favorite deity that they will get it.  They pray because they cannot know if those below them can figure out how to reach the targets.   Or, even worse, they wait for the numbers to come in, without ever going to see if their processes are in total chaos despite making the numbers.  For example, a cost reduction target gets translated by managers into headcount reduction.   The work has not changed so there is still enough chaos and fire fighting so that people are always busy and can never reduce variation and stabilize processes.  Therefore too few people and incapable processes are trying to make quality product for the customer with on-time deliveries.    On-time deliveries slip.   That is on next year’s MBO.

 

I was in Sweden recently and a colleague from Volvo developed a nice visual comparison of MBO vs Hoshin Kanri.  For MBO they have an iceberg and those setting the objective at the top can only see as far as the water level and have no idea what is going on with most of the iceberg which is below water level.  For HK they have teams climbing a mountain–step by step, overcoming obstacle by obstacle, learning and growing stronger as they move up the hill–which they can see, though more clearly near where they are and more vaguely at higher levels.

 

So what can you do? Begin the process of coaching those at the top to set meaningful objectives, develop well thought out plans, and execute those plans.  A good coach is needed who understands lean and lean leadership to teach them.   Perhaps at the bottom of the organization choose a pilot to establish a visual metrics board, identify one or a few targets on business important metrics.  Have the same coach work with the local leaders and teams to begin to climb the hill learning as they go how to improve processes. Eventually through developing people up and down and across the organization meaningful hoshin kanri will be possible.

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