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5 ways Hoshin Kanri will break down your organizational barriers

While Hoshin Kanri is a tremendously effective strategic framework, what are its less-than-obvious advantages? These are five ways Hoshin breaks down organizational barriers like no other approach.

Written by: Carolyn Gibson, Senior Strategy Advisor


In my recent blogs, I’ve spent a lot of time describing the Hoshin Kanri method, tools and techniques

But businesses want more than tools and techniques: they want organizational alignment. 

Does this sound familiar?:

  • You are tired of working in siloes
  • You are tired of working at cross-purposes
  • You are tired of wasting time and energy on something that ultimately doesn’t work because everyone’s pieces of the puzzle didn’t fit together, and
  • You are tired of failing. 

Hoshin Kanri, if implemented fully, can break down these barriers to success. 

These are the top five reasons why:

  1. Departmental pet projects are banished
  2. An interdepartmental commitment backs up individual accountability
  3. Goals are well-defined are well-understood
  4. Simple, consistent tools help support the capability for delivery
  5. Hoshin Kanri invests power in data, not in departments


Let's take a look at these in more detail.

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1. Focus breeds decisiveness

There is a conscious decision by the management team not just to focus on the key breakthrough goals but also to agree to put what is not contributing to those objectives on hold. 

Resources and energy often diverted into pet projects are redirected into common goals.

The proof:

In 2019, a biotech company was able to kill or postpone all non-essential projects within 6 weeks of implementing Hoshin Kanri.


2. An interdepartmental commitment backs up individual accountability

The catchball process, done well, gives those crucial mid-level managers a chance to work out how they will achieve set targets before they become accountable for delivering them.

This means that where there are dependencies across the organization, these are identified beforehand and agreed upon in advance.

Battles between Sales and Implementation or between IT and Production become collaborations instead.

The proof:

A UK Health Trust was able to identify in advance those action plans that required IT input prior to action plan agreement, improving IT planning, resourcing and coordination.


3. Goals are well-defined and are well-understood

The discipline of backing up every goal with clearly defined, measurable targets and clearly defined, actionable project plans leaves no room for inaction and little scope for misunderstanding across organizational boundaries.

The proof:

A US manufacturing company implementing Hoshin realised that its factories were measuring Cost of Poor Quality differently; alignment removed the disparities and led to better understanding of quality issues across the company.

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4. Simple, consistent tools help support the capability for delivery

If everyone uses the same five tools: the x-matrix, the action plan, the bowling chart, the metric A3, and the countermeasure A3, they have what it takes to define, develop, measure, track, fix and deliver success.

The proof:

The Operations Director of airline company used Hoshin Kanri to build consistency and capability across his direct reports, and thus focus action on key indicators rather than firefighting.


5. Hoshin Kanri invests power in data, not departments

Where Hoshin Kanri is administered centrally, either through automated systems or neutral administrators, data no longer becomes a tool that individual departments can interpret, making decisions less politicized.

The proof:

The CEO of a large European supermarket chain implemented Hoshin Kanri centrally to help identify and rectify data and definitional disparities between departments.

Executives were thus deprived of the ability to manipulate and present data for their own purposes, allowing a more objective view of departmental initiatives.


Wrapping up

As you can see from the examples above, commitment from the top of the organization to using Hoshin Kanri in this way is crucial.

Organizational barriers do not disintegrate by themselves, even in the face of better processes and tools.

However, the Hoshin Kanri method, accompanied by executive commitment, can be the catalyst your organization needs to bring those walls crashing down and let success flow through.

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About the author

Carolyn Gibson is a senior strategy advisor and certified Hoshin Kanri facilitator working with Fortune 500 companies on building their strategy execution capabilities. Her career spans disciplines, industries, and locations for over twenty years, with a golden thread running throughout of an obsessive focus on the mechanical detail of how organizations achieve their goals.