With our third episode of “Strategy Hero,” we wanted to return to our roots - Hoshin Kanri. To do that, we found the perfect guest and the author of Amazon's most popular book on Hoshin. Here's what I learned from my time with Fredrik Fjellstedt.
As we looked through our potential guest list, knowing that our roots are firmly in Hoshin Kanri, there was one name that our eyes were drawn to - Fredrik Fjellstedt. With a solid Toyota background that sprawled into digital business, Fredrik was a compelling option for addressing the policy deployment theme.
Here's what I took away from my time with Fredrik and our third episode, "The 4Cs of Hoshin Kanri."
It’s important to note that my opinions do not reflect those of i-nexus or Fredrik Fjellstedt.
Finding our angle
When you look at Fredrik's background, it'd be easy to focus on his Toyota experience - but there's much more to explore.
Before recording, in what I consider the "getting comfortable with each other" phase, he shared stories about his work around problem-solving and coaching leaders.
And that seed was enough. "Leadership," I thought, was the exact topic we've heard countless times as a blocker to adopting Hoshin Kanri. That's a perfect mix.
Our audience is made of people who are both established and aspiring leaders. All too often, we talk about the tools of Hoshin Kanri - not the mentality shift that's required.
I knew that Fredrik's perspective, specifically calling out the common challenges every leader faces in growing a business, would be the angle to capture your interest.
The truth is that strategy fails in execution. Whether it's Hoshin Kanri, OKR, OGSM, or a custom business/operating system, from talking with Fredrik, it was crystalized that both academic and professional teaching focus on the planning of strategy and very rarely what to do when the plan is in motion.
“It took the leadership team 30 days to build the strategy. It took the organization 30 seconds to misunderstand it.”
It's always fascinating to speak to consultants. They have a unique take on not only what challenges exist but also the nuances in what those challenges mean from leader to leader.
It's even more eye-opening when you talk to a Fredrik, because you know they've put in countless hours turning Hoshin Kanri from a theory into a reality.
That quote - 30 days to 30 seconds - sums up what I imagine you've experienced plenty of times. How often have we sat around a table with other leaders, managers, and even our team members, and there's rarely agreement on the strategy - and that's to say nothing about how the strategy gets executed and by who.
The majority knows there's an issue here, surely?
Find out answers to issues like this and much more in our leader's guide to Hoshin Kanri, available below:
It's not a case of copying what Toyota did - you need to go a layer deeper. That's why Fredrik developed, and uses, the 4Cs of Hoshin Kanri's leadership.
The 4Cs of Hoshin
In his book, Implementing Hoshin Kanri: How to Manage Strategy Through Policy Deployment and Continuous Improvement, Fredrik introduces his guiding theory - the 4Cs:
As we moved through the episode, he shared details on what they are and what they mean. Here are some highlights I took from his explanation.
This starts with a simple question: do we see the same picture?
It's sobering, but leaders must look closer at the mission and vision if we cannot embed mission and vision into long-term goals. If it's not working, you need to amend it (and without it, you cannot be courageous, committed, and have consensus on the strategy and its execution).
To me, it's no surprise that Fredrik can often spend anywhere between one to two days with leadership teams, helping them to get on the same level with their mission and vision. It's such a crucial part of the strategy picture that, sadly, it is often ignored or given lip service.
Mission and vision are foundational - period. From here, your goals can flow.
You can only turn to priorities and assess how every team supports those goals.
"The more clarity we have, the easier it is for leadership teams to make good decisions."
Indeed, clarity helps everyone to move on to the next three Cs.
It's a widely known, and celebrated, reality that Hoshin encourages critical thinking. From that, critical thinking changes how we think and do things.
But, to ask the business to change is a scary concept. It all starts with management being brave enough to push themselves and their teams to transform.
That takes great courage, but it also takes trust in a process, in people, and that the outcome - the breakthroughs - is indeed "worth it.
What isn't courageous, however, is when we set attainable goals; this defeats Hoshin's essence.
"If you already know how you want to solve or accomplish a breakthrough, it's probably not a breakthrough because you have the answer."
I thought Fredrik explained it well. Hoshin Kanri is a completely different type of leadership. It's not a case of passing down targets and dictating what should be done; instead, it's courageous to have the entire organization involved in setting direction and how the boat will reach the destination.
Even with clarity and courage, this is all for nothing when there isn't follow through. That's where commitment comes into the picture.
Too often, leaders set a strategy and leave it be. In some studies, including those from Gartner, you see anywhere as low as 6% of leaders admitting they regularly check in on the progress of their plans.
That's alarmingly low and shows there's an inequality between strategic planning and strategy execution.
Fredrik made a great point in that regard, explaining that annual planning typically takes 9 months. So, it's easy to see burnout and lack of execution check-ins, and it is rare for leaders to leave the planning phase truly.
"The more we invest in a good strategic plan, the harder it can be to go against that plan."
And that makes a lot of sense when we think about the time, intellectual, and emotional drain that comes from planning cycles.
But breakthroughs shouldn't change. It's for management to empower the business to identify the work and continuous improvements that can be made to adapt the tactics that achieve those goals. This, according to Fredrik, is something leaders still struggle with.
We end with the idea of consensus. Simple and straight to the point - you want everyone on the same page at the end of the planning process to enable high-quality, results-yielding execution.
And Fredrik captured that process from goals through to priorities to work very well with one question to ask time after time:
"This is what we want to achieve, what do you think?"
To that end, Hoshin offers exactly the right tool - catchball. Click here to learn more about catchball, or read our eBook below for our own take - the "W" process - for achieving consensus.
I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know Fredrik. Personally and professionally, I learned a tremendous amount from him about Hoshin Kanri.
As for the key takeaway from this episode, I feel strongly that we need to, as leaders, be more open to admitting we don't always have the answer, and enable our teams to help us find ways forward.
Thankfully, with the combination of this podcast and a copy of Fredrik's book, I feel as though those following Hoshin and those who don't have much to learn from his experiences.
It was a pleasure to speak with Fredrik and to give all of you a glimpse into how our conversations went over the previous 6 months. I genuinely hope to welcome him back in future seasons.
Listen back to the episode
Fredrik's episode was the third of six in our opening season of Strategy Hero.
You can click here to listen to Fredrik's episode or search "Strategy Hero" wherever you find your favorite podcasts.
About Strategy Hero
Published on the last Thursday of every month, the Strategy Hero podcast delves into the world of business strategy and transformation.
Each cast shines a spotlight on a Strategy Hero – inspirers, boundary pushers, and leaders of change from all walks of life – armed with practical advice on achieving your goals.
Episodes explore topics around operational excellence, Lean management, process improvement, change management, and much, much more. Available where all great podcasts live, listen on-demand today, and discover the Strategy Hero inside you.
About the host
James Milsom is Head of Marketing at i-nexus, but James is a storyteller. He’s the UK’s biggest Georgia Bulldogs fan (Go Dawgs!) and lives and breathes marketing.
The Strategy Hero podcast is his opportunity to bring some of his conversations with mentors, inspirers, and people anew to you every month.
He’s behind the content read and watched by people like you and lives to educate and help others.
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