Hoshin Kanri (also known as Hoshin Planning or Policy Deployment) is an important tool for any company. It is not just a tool to communicate the company’s mission: it provides the means to align work, coordinate people, test ideas, adapt the company to changes and check results. It is PDCA at the corporate level. Yes, Hoshin is a great tool and these are some of the wonderful things you could get from it:
- It helps focus your company’s efforts in the long-term (even sacrificing the short-term if needed), making sure that everybody knows the top corporate goals and how their work can impact them.
- It forces top management to select, prioritize and make visible the vital few initiatives the company needs. This will avoid department wars, each one fighting to put in place their own interpretation of what the goals are.
- It’s based in nested PDCA cycles, helping your company learn and react quickly to changes. Everybody is testing and providing feedback continuously. Therefore one layer of the organization can learn from the work of other layers, understand the impact of each change and adapt their work consequently.
- It is a tool that increases dramatically the sustainability of improvement work. Lean projects and actions will solve real problems and the people who can support the work and remove roadblocks will follow up the results using meaningful metrics.
- It strengthens communication: senior managers find out too often that most of their people don’t know what the key corporate goals are (following George Bernard Shaw’s famous quote: “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place). Hoshin creates communication channels in both directions: top-down and bottom-up.
There are many books, articles and conferences out there about Hoshin. This is a starting kit that might be helpful for you:
- Article by Greg Lane at Lean Post: http://www.lean.org/LeanPost/Posting.cfm?LeanPostId=42
- Article by Wiebe Nijdam at Planet Lean: http://www.planet-lean.com/a-guide-to-practical-hoshin
- Article by Mark Jaben at Kai Nexus about the neuroscience behind Hoshin: http://blog.kainexus.com/improvement-disciplines/hoshin-kanri/unclutter-the-prefrontal-cortex
- Interesting page by MCTS: http://www.mcts.com/Hoshin-Kanri.htm
- Book: Hoshin Kanri for the Lean Enterprise by Thomas L Jackson
- Video by Jeff Liker:
Picture by: http://www.mcts.com
It is always good to remember this: Lean is not about the tools, Lean is a thinking system. The Toyota Production System and its tools (SMED, 5S, Kanban,…) have often been considered the same thing. Everybody working with lean has probably made this wrong assumption at some point, but TPS is much more.
The classic article “Decoding the DNA of the Toyota Production System”, by Steven Spear and H. Kent Bowen (HBR, Sept 1999) helps understand that TPS greatest achievement is to create a global community of scientist who use PDCA to establish hypothesis and test them. In other words, it creates a rigorous problem solving culture. Read the full article here:
Thomas L. Jackson (Hoshin Kanri for the Lean Enterprise) has summarized it this way: “The major question in assessing [Lean] development is: To what extent has scientific PDCA thinking become part of the company’s culture?“. This idea can be articulated in 5 rules:
- Rule 1: Standardize processes & work
- Reduces variability
- Improves quality & learning
- Creates controlled conditions for improvement
- Rule 2: Zero ambiguity
- Customer requirements must be absolutely clear to everybody working in the value stream
- Rule 3: Flow the process
- Material and information move in the most direct way
- Rule 4: Speak with data
- Decisions taken at the lowest possible level
- Decisions takes as close to real-time as possible
- Decisions based in PDCA
- Rule 5: Develop people
- Workers who are problem solvers
- Leaders who are teachers
The best strategy to develop Lean is to find your own way of applying Lean rules and not to simply “copy and paste” Toyota tools. Implementing tools without much thinking rarely works, creates frustration and ultimately makes everybody lose faith in continuous improvement.
“Hoshin Kanri for the Lean Enterprise” by Thomas L. Jackson is one of the best references for learning Hoshin and one of my favorite books about Lean. It includes a complete how-to guide and many examples and templates you can use. Of course a book alone is useless without practice, but it can make your first Hoshin journey (with the help of a coach/sensei) considerably easier.
Warning: This book contains the complete Hoshin Kanri system. Many times you don’t need all the tools, especially for the first Hoshin cycles, so just keep it simple. Hoshin is defined as “a set of experiments” so trial and error is part of the game.
Here you can find my book summary/notes, they are totally personal and absolutely incomplete, but maybe helpful for you!