When it comes to executing your strategy with Hoshin you would be forgiven for thinking that the ultimate goal is ROI, but a countermeasure culture is truly what you should aim to achieve. Here’s why.
Written by: James Milsom, Senior Marketing Manager
As commercial leaders we are seemingly born with the innate ability to measure our success in how much bang we can get for our buck.
Indeed, the allusive return on investment (ROI) is where businesses, and finance in particular, gauge the success of their products and services.
And for a business as usual, daily management mindset this absolutely remains the correct way to measure the health and success of our organizations.
However, for those who have adopted Hoshin Kanri there is a different ultimate goal you should have in mind – the countermeasure culture.
Today we’re examining what countermeasures are, why you should use them, when and how, revealing why they are the correct unit of measurement for your policy deployment and that it all comes back to Hoshin being about transformative, long-term paradigm shifts.
Why isn’t it the usual suspects?
What would you consider to be the measure of success for a marketing campaign, a sales campaign targeted at competitors’ customers, or deploying more customer service agents onto your social media accounts during the holiday season?
The likely answer of those metrics will be:
- Pipeline growth
- Social media tickets served within 1 hour
These are metrics which are based on daily activity. You are seeking to improve your customer’s journey in line with what they have told you they expect today.
With that objective in mind, this is absolutely the correct way to understand your performance levels every day, monthly and annually.
However, these are not the correct measurements of your Hoshin success.
The reason lies in the meaning of Hoshin and wider Strategy Execution Management, that being to achieve a previously unimaginable level of performance which delivers your organization a competitive advantage over the long-term, in the future.
It is a paradigm shift, and as such should be measured in terms beyond monetary value.
What you're going to find in the last step of the Hoshin process
As you enter the last step of the Hoshin process you will begin to notice the importance of the distinction between Hoshin and daily management.
Several issues will begin to appear the further into the deployment you are:
1) Not everything is as you expected
The Hoshin process is admittedly clunky given the scale of transformation it is seeking to help you with.
And, because Hoshin doesn't happen in 12-month segments, it remains crucial that your organization follows the process and remains committed to the cause.
2) Momentum and enthusiasm dip
Because our entire commercial careers revolve around the standard measurements of success, when we do not necessarily see those moving, our heads can begin to sink.
Suddenly the intoxicating attractiveness of Hoshin Kanri can wane. Your breakthroughs seem further away. You are accustomed to the scent of success from shorter projects. The longer-term view of Hoshin is lost.
3) Resources are pulled in multiple directions
As leaders, who are misguided in their measurement of the plan’s success, see that the traditional metrics aren’t moving in the direction and pace they have grown accustomed to ‘with similar projects’, they begin to reallocate resource.
Now, the resources earmarked for use on the three improvement priorities agreed six months ago are being deployed on a project to counter new competitor presence in a highly-valued market.
Never has a strong-minded, resilient and visionary leader, committed to the Hoshin cause, been needed than towards the end of the of the Hoshin process.
4) But what can be done?
What can your organization rally around and use as the true measuring stick of success?
What are countermeasures?
Countermeasures are actions taken to reduce or eliminate the root causes of problems which prevent your organization from reaching its breakthrough goals.
Root causes will present themselves through Targets To Improve dashboards and Bowling Charts using a traffic light system to identify slippage in expected performance on the KPIs agreed in the original action plans and bowling charts per improvement priority.
The countermeasure is an action plan in and of itself to help bring you back on track with your Hoshin targets.
- Action plans bring you back on track with your Hoshin target
- They are designed to address root causes of the missed target
- Formal documents which should be made readily available to the business
- Address short term actions (immediate recovery) and long-term actions (permanent fix)
- Written for any monthly miss on your policy deployment
- Can also be required for KPIs of the plan, dependent on manager's discretion
- They're not just problem solving - they're mandatory, you're committed to identify and implement countermeasures as part of embracing Hoshin
- You'll typically see them on the bowling chart in red
For those mature in their execution of Hoshin Kanri, with the systems fully embedded, you will begin to see the administrative burden involved with reporting without automation and digitalization.
For example, digital bowling charts can inform you as to where you've underachieved, a traditionally difficult task to anticipate or see in real time without reporting software such as i-nexus Track.
Why use countermeasures?
Countermeasures offer your organization a means to, through a rinse and repeat effort, embed the new processes Hoshin has helped you to identify, and:
- Motivate you to create an action plan to quickly get your performance back on track - you should take the countermeasures which will get you back to your expected level the quickest
- Drive you to use the 5 whys methodology to get to the root cause of the performance
- Deliver a structured format to communicate your existing situation and how you intent to systematically attack the root cause(s)
How to write countermeasures
Countermeasures do not form themselves.
Indeed, it requires a structured process to create and implement these action plans of counter activity.
Here are four steps you can take to write your own:
1) Focus on fixing the process - typically the route cause is a failure in a process, method or procedure. Often, you'll have multiple causes.
2) Follow a standard countermeasure format:
i) Define which part of the Hoshin has been affected - explain the improvement priority and the target to improve
ii) Include the bowling chart data which is most appropriate to describe the situation
iii) Provide a pareto to show the reasons why you've missed expected performance levels - indeed, there can be many paretos - but they serve to show what you believe to be the highest level root causes.
Where the root cause occurs is irrelevant, the real issue is why that root cause exists.
iv) Once you've identified the root cause(s) you will clearly describe that root cause and quantify how each root cause has contributed to the missed target.
v) Define three levels of action to be taken, the owner, the completion date and how much of an impact will be made based on a short term (typically internal), medium term (perhaps with your supply chain) and long term action (what standard is expected so we don't see this level of performance again?).
3) Make use of the 5 whys methodology to get to your root cause
4) You must create actionable, specific tasks which are assigned to owners and have defined completion dates
Checklist for creating countermeasures
Use this 10-item check list to review the efficacy and completeness of countermeasures:
- Does it tie into the Hoshin and is that link obvious?
- Does it have a run chart / bowling chart showing the planned performance versus actual?
- Does the pareto show the why versus the where?
- Is there an appropriate number of paretos to reach a root cause?
- Does the root cause statement quantify the amount of performance missed?
- Are the countermeasures focused on the critical few which will course correct the performance?
- Are there short term and long-term countermeasures?
- Is the ownership of each countermeasure identified?
- Is the timing of each countermeasure identified?
- Is the impact of each countermeasure quantified and is there enough to get you back to plan?
- Have you implemented the countermeasure into a system to track and, providing the countermeasure is a success, is it replicable across the business?
If the countermeasure doesn't deliver the expected result you must repeat the process.
However, by focusing on the process, and not achieving the result, you can put yourself in a position to use this is as a standard moving forward, printed out for meetings to review etc.
When and how are countermeasures are reviewed?
Countermeasures must be embedded into the way you manage your Hoshin Kanri.
As such consider these suggestions for the frequency and running of review sessions for any counteractions:
- Monthly deployment meetings must take place, with one per x-matrix level defined
- Data-driven analysis is mandatory, the focus must be on the performance levels and improving them based on data, not a narrative driven discussion.
- The countermeasures' due dates and ownership will guide what is being reviewed in each session and who should be present. This should be the action owners and any key stakeholders supporting them.
- Countermeasure tools such as the 5 whys, value stream map and pareto chart will be brought into the session to help determine the countermeasure.
Is a countermeasure culture the right goal?
That remains the question to be answered here.
For those that long for a short-term view of Hoshin success, this will remain allusive.
To believe in that as the route forward is misguided when it comes to reviewing Hoshin.
The value of Hoshin cannot be seen in short increments. Much like life does not work in 12-month bursts, it is through continued execution that value will be seen.
And that value is through creating and implementing countermeasures. By doing so you are ushering in the traits of patience, openness, learning, collaboration and shared spirit. That is the countermeasure culture.
These are measurements which go beyond that of the traditional, short-term metrics we consider staples of our daily work.
With a countermeasure culture in place, your organization can look to focus on breakthroughs which, by their very nature, won’t be achieved with great ease and in a short time span.
Indeed, our daily management of projects and business as usual can borrow from Hoshin in so far as countermeasures are considered. We absolutely encourage that, but your transformation efforts must remain centered on creating long-lasting, paradigm shifting behaviors.
And above all else, their success will be measured in delivering value to your customers, ensuring that your business maintains, and indeed grows upon, its existing market standing.
Remember – you cannot measure a long-term goal with short-mindedness. Period.
Learn more about Strategy Execution Management
Click here to learn more about the Japanese Strategy Execution method of Hoshin Kanri – or take a look at these content recommendations:
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- Download our Hoshin Kanri eBook: Read how Hoshin Kanri is supporting organizations to drive great business results, how two businesses have used the methodology to build their business systems, case studies and more.
About the author
James Milsom is Senior Marketing Manager at i-nexus. James has wide-ranging experience of markets such as telecommunications, energy, education and software.
As Senior Marketing Manager, his drive is to raise awareness and understanding of the challenges facing enterprises in delivering strategic objectives and transformation amidst changing markets and the obstacles traditional tools and methods present leaders.
If you’d like to talk more about Strategy Execution, reach out to James on email@example.com or connect with him on LinkedIn for the latest insights.